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Night Creature: Crescent Moon Chapter 40

“Luc!” I shouted, running into the house, skidding across the floor.

I didn’t see a body, and I wasn’t sure if that was good or bad.

I stopped in the doorway of Luc’s room.

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Definitely bad.

Henri sat on the bed, holding Luc in his lap, his hand over the child’s mouth. From what I could tell, the blood wasn’t Luc’s, although Henri was a mess.

I guess we were short another babysitter.

Henri smirked. “I figured you’d show up eventually.”

My mind grasped for a plan. Would Adam be able to follow his great-grandfather’s trail to this place? I had a feeling Henri wasn’t that stupid.

“What do you want?” I asked.

He lowered his hand from Luc’s mourn but kept his arms locked around the child’s body so he couldn’t run away. Luc’s bright, happy blue eyes were now dull and very sad. What had he seen? How long would it take him to forget?

“This isn’t Daddy,” Luc whispered.

“I know.”

“Who is he?’

For an instant I was surprised Luc didn’t know the truth, but Adam had said he kept his two lives separate. He must have used a very serious threat in order to keep Henri on a leash, so to speak.

“I’m your grandpa.”

I guess the threat was gone or Henri didn’t care anymore what Adam did to him. Maybe both.

“My grandpa died.”

“I’m a few generations removed, true. But I’m blood of your blood. You’ll understand better when you have a child of your own.”

Luc’s face crinkled in confusion. “Where’s Daddy?”

“In de swamp,” Henri said. “He has a very bad headache.”

My eyes narrowed. “What did you do?”

“Nothing permanent I need him. But first I’m going to figure out if I need you. Having him around is too goddamn distracting.”

“Watch your mouth in front of Luc.”

“That’s de least of your worries.” Henri shoved the child from his lap as if he were a pesky dog. “Go in de bathroom and turn on de shower.”

Luc ran to me and I hugged him. Henri had managed to smear blood here and there. Maybe a shower wasn’t such a bad idea. At least Luc would be out of harm’s way by a few feet.

“He hurt Sadie,” Luc whispered. “She cried and cried and I wished she’d stop.” He swallowed. “Then she did.”

“That’s not your fault.” I pushed him gently toward the bathroom. “Do what he says, Luc.”

“But – ” The boy stared at me with worried eyes.

“I’ll be fine.”

He went, dragging his feet all the way. The door closed and the shower turned on.

“You won’t be fine,” Henri said.

“I know.”

A cunning expression came into his eyes. “I’ll let you go if you leave now.”

“Me and Luc?”

“No. Either you or de kid dies today.”

“Me,” I said automatically.

He tilted his head the same way Adam did. The similarity made me nauseous. “Why so hasty? He isn’t even yours.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“I suppose it doesn’t, but did you ever wonder why?”

“What?”

I was having a hard time focusing, trying to listen to Luc, to think of a plan, to pray that Adam wasn’t dead and was already on the way.

“Ever wonder why you fell so hard and so fast for Adam and his son?”

“Who said I fell? Normal human beings don’t sell out others just because they can; they don’t sacrifice children to save themselves.”

“You’re wrong,” he said. “Most people aren’t exactly human and without exception they pick themselves over strangers, even lovers and children.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“What I can’t believe is that you’re one of de few to be self-sacrificing. And now I understand why. Ever seen one of these?” He held up a gris-gris.

My hand went to my pocket. Mine were still there. “A few.”

“I found this one under de boy’s pillow. It’s a love charm.”

Huh. I had been under a spell, and I no longer cared.

The sound of a match being struck made me jump. Henri held the flame to the bag, and when it went up as if drenched in lighter fluid, he dropped the gris-gris to the floor and stomped on it.

“How you feel now about de boys now?” he asked.

I thought a minute, then couldn’t help but smile. “Exactly the same.”

Henri frowned. “That’s impossible.”

“Guess you were wrong about the magic. We got true love.”

“Adam doesn’t love you,” he said. “He’s as incapable of it as I am.”

He might be right, but I wasn’t going to admit that I shrugged and his face darkened.

“We’ll find out soon enough. He’ll have to choose, too. You or his son.”

A hysterical bubble of laughter spilled from my lips. “You’re a moron.”

Fury washed over his face. He moved so fast, I didn’t even see him coming. His hand at my throat, he slammed me against the wall. I saw stars.

“Watch your mouth,” he said.

Since I couldn’t talk, that wasn’t going to be a problem.

“I like to make people choose,” he murmured. “I smell their fear, de sweet aroma of despair. I swear it makes me stronger.”

He put his nose to my neck, inhaling deeply. “Mmm. Like that.”

I toyed with the notion of bringing my knee up, hard, but I had a feeling he wouldn’t react like a regular man.

Until Adam, or even Mandenauer, got here, I needed to keep Henri away from Luc.

Henri licked my neck. I fought the gagging reflex. “Tallient, despite his holier-than-thou attitude, chose himself over his family without a quibble.”

I frowned. Was that why Frank had become so obsessed? Grief and guilt did funny things to a person’s mind. I should know.

“We have time before Adam comes, and I want to discover if screwing a moon goddess will give me any power over de moon.”

“We’ve been over this. I don’t have any magic. My name is just a name.”

“Then you’re dead.” He laughed. “But that was my plan anyway. I just want to make sure.”

He ground his erection against me; then he yanked off his shirt. He looked so much like Adam, my eyes burned. After this, would I ever be able to be with Adam again without remembering Henri?

I’d be dead soon; the worry was moot One less thing.

Henri fisted his hand in my shirt and tore it down the middle. His body was so close to mine, he didn’t see the fleur-de-lis chain, but he certainly felt it when the silver touched him.

I heard the hiss, smelled flesh burning, even as he howled and spun away.

My gaze lowered to his stomach, where the image of a dozen tiny French crosses had been scalded into his skin. I’d be able to tell them apart after all.

“What de hell?” he shouted. “Where did you get that?”

“Adam.”

His eyes narrowed. “Someone will pay.” He turned toward the bathroom.

I vaulted after him, grabbed his arm. “No. Come on, let’s, uh, do it”

He shook me off as if I weighed no more than a fly, and I stumbled. Before I could regain my balance, he’d opened the bathroom door. A roar of fury made my ears ring.

The bathroom was empty. Luc was gone.

Henri backhanded me. I flew across the room, crumbling in a heap near the bed.

“Where did he go? How did he get out?”

There were no windows in that room. My only thought was a trapdoor somewhere. No wonder the child hadn’t fought against going into the bathroom. Clever, clever boy.

I shook my head as Henri advanced, and stopped mid-movement when my ears began to ring again. He’d bit me pretty hard.

He pulled me to my feet by the hair. Damn, that hurt But not as much as when he wrapped his hands around my throat I choked, clawed at his fingers, saw black dots. But my life didn’t pass before my eyes. Only Adam’s face, and then I heard his voice. “Let her go, Grandpere. Now.”

The weight on my chest lightened. I could breathe just a little.

“What will you dor Henri murmured. “I wonder.”

I tried to speak, to tell Adam he didn’t have to choose, but my voice was gone.

“He will do nothing.”

Mandenauer’s voice. How many people were in this cavalry?

“It would make my day, as they say, to blow you back to hell. Let her go.”

I was falling and someone caught me. Before I opened my eyes I knew it was Adam. I recognized the gentleness of his touch, the strength in his arms.

“You OK?”

I nodded, wincing at the pain in my throat. “Luc – “

“He’s fine. Used an escape hatch under de sink.” Adam shook his head. “Can’t trust a beast to follow de rules forever.”

He’d always known Henri would come one day.

“Where’s Luc?” I asked.

“We ran into him coming up de road.” Adam leaned closer and whispered, “He wanted to rescue you with guns blazing, but I convinced him to wait for us next door.”

Soothed by the knowledge that Luc was fine, I managed to force back the dizziness. Cassandra waited in the hall with a willowy blonde, who wore hot pink shorts and an electric blue tank top. Talk about bright. I was dizzy again.

Henri sat on the bed, Edward’s pistol stuffed in his ear. Why hadn’t I thought of that?

“How?” The word dissolved into coughing, so I just pointed at Cassandra.

“I got worried when I didn’t hear from you. Came to the mansion just as Adam stumbled in.”

“Grandpere was insane with the idea I’d sold him out.”

Adam couldn’t stop touching me. I sat on the floor, still a little woozy, and he knelt at my side, holding my hand.

“Insaner, you mean?”

“If that’s possible. He knocked me out” Adam’s mouth tightened. “When I came around, I knew he’d gone after what mattered to me most.”

“Luc.”

“And you.”

I blinked. But now was not the time to examine his sudden change of heart.

“Why is he so obsessed with Diana?” Cassandra asked.

She didn’t know about the goddess-of-the-moon part of the curse, so I told her.

“Hmm,” she murmured. “That bears looking into.”

“I’m not magic,” I protested.

Cassandra just shrugged.

“She’ll leave,” Henri blurted. “They always do. Your wife couldn’t take it The woman had no guts. Or at least she didn’t when I was through with her.”

I glanced at Adam as shock spread over his face. He hadn’t been lying when he’d said she’d left and never come back. He just hadn’t known she was dead.

My shirt hung in two pieces, and I tied them together under my breasts, which was the best I could do. With Adam’s help, I got to my feet

“Fix him,” I said, voice hoarse.

Henri scowled. “I don’t want to be fixed.”

“They never do.” Mandenauer nodded to the woman.

Henri reared up from the bed, and Adam left me to shove him back down. He hovered over his grandfather nose to nose. The resemblance was downright creepy.

“You like so much de choice, here’s yours. Be cured or die.”

Henri’s top lip curled back. “I choose to die.”

He banged his hands against Adam’s chest Adam flew into a nearby wall and slid to the floor. Henri ducked as Edward fired, and the bullet plowed into the bed.

Adam scrambled up, but Henri was already streaking toward the door. The blonde stood in his way. I tensed in expectation of her flying through the air next. Instead, she slammed the palm of one hand against his forehead.

Henri jerked as if in pain. “You’re like me.”

“Not really,” she said, and her eyes closed.

Henri appeared frozen, Adam, Cassandra, and I gathered closer to watch.

“What’s she doing?” I asked.

“Magic.” Mandenauer didn’t appear happy about it.

“Cool,” Cassandra said. “What kind?”

“I have no idea. According to a dead old native woman, Elise has been blessed, though I cannot see it.”

“She’s your werewolf cure?” Adam asked.

“Ja.”

“And she’s a werewolf.”

“Ja.”

“But you haven’t killed her.”

“She is different.”

“How?”

“No demon,” he said simply.

“That would be handy,” Cassandra murmured.

Mandenauer shot her a suspicious glare, but she just smiled.

A thud drew our attention to Henri and Elise. He lay on the floor, twitching. She stared at him, uncertain, one hand riddling with a tiny white wolf icon she wore around her neck; then slowly she turned up her palm to reveal a tattoo in the shape of a pentagram.

“What’s with that?” I asked.

Elise blinked as if she’d forgotten we were there. “I received it in the Land of Souls.”

I glanced at Cassandra, who shrugged. “Not a voodoo land.”

“Ojibwe,” Elise murmured. “Another time, another place, different werewolves.”

‘I thought a pentagram was protection against a werewolf,” I said. “Although from what I’ve heard, it doesn’t work.”

“According to legend, the points ascendant are benevolent” Elise held up her hand so we could see she was one of the good guys. “Descendant points indicate evil.”

She returned her attention to a still-unconscious Henri. “Something’s wrong.”

“What?” Adam demanded.

“Usually I touch a werewolf and the demon is gone. Poof, they’re human again.”

“Just like that?” I asked.

“Pretty much.” She frowned. “I see their soul on the other side of darkness. A faint light that becomes brighter and brighter until it fills my mind and theirs.”

“But not this time?”

“I saw his soul, but it wasn’t very bright Kind of hazy and gray.”

“He wasn’t much of a human to begin with,” Adam said. “Getting his soul back isn’t going to change that.”

“Maybe,” Elise said, but she didn’t sound convinced.

“Do the cured werewolves remember what they did?” I asked.

“No. The big problem has been trying to explain to them why they’ve woken up in a different century and enabling them to live in this one.”

“That would be a problem,” I murmured. “What do you do?”

“We have a branch specifically created to deal with those issues,” Mandenauer said.

He hadn’t really answered my question; however, I didn’t care when Henri started to wake up.

His eyes opened. They were different now, no longer evil but haunted.

“Oh, God,” he whispered, his voice quavering. “I can hear them screaming.”

He slapped his hands over his ears and started to scream himself .

Elise grabbed her medical bag, put on gloves, then used a hypodermic needle on Henri. He went limp again. We stared at the man on the floor. No one spoke for a very long time.

“He has his soul back,” Elise murmured.

“How do you know?”

“Only someone with a soul would care about those he’s killed. Which is why none of them remember what they’ve done. I think if they could, they’d go mad.” Elise cast a considering glance in my direction as she snapped off the gloves. “Maybe you should touch him.”

“Me?” My lip curled.

“This goddess-of-the-moon thing might help.”

“I’ve touched him. Well, he’s touched me. Nothing happened except nausea. Names may have power, but I don’t”

“His soul is restored. Perhaps your touching him now would be different”

I hesitated, but Adam looked at me with such hope, I sighed. “Fine.”

Kneeling, I put my palm against Henri’s head as Elise had.

Nothing.

I shut my eyes, opened my mind, got a little creeped out to be so close to him while unable to see, and opened them again.

“Zip,” I said.

Elise joined me. “Let’s try it together.”

She pressed her fingers to Henri’s forehead, too. A jolt like an electric shock, made his body jump. I yanked back, and so did she.

“Hell. I’d forgotten how much that hurts.” Elise lifted her gaze to Mandenauer’s. “He’s still a werewolf.”

“How can you know that?” Adam demanded.

“When we touch, skin to skin, we know.” She rubbed her brow. “Major ice-cream headache.”

Henri appeared unaffected by everything we’d tried. I wondered what she’d doped him with and how long it would last.

Elise dropped her hand. “I don’t know what to do. This hasn’t happened before.”

“You’re forgetting Damien,” Mandenauer murmured.

“Who de hell is Damien?”

“He was a werewolf,” Elise answered, “but he was cursed by an Ozark Mountain magic woman to get his soul back.”

“That doesn’t sound like a curse to me,” I said.

“The lycanthropy stayed. He was cursed to shift, to hunt, to kill, all the while knowing exactly what he was doing but unable to stop.”

“OK, I can see where that would suck.”

“We need to make a decision,” Adam interrupted.

I glanced up and saw what he meant

The sun was going down.

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