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“Medic? That seems an odd choice for an incubus,” Summer said, clearly fishing.
Chuck shrugged. “Maybe, but if you want to know, you’ll have to wait. It’s my turn for a question.”
“Fine.” Summer peered out into the darkness, watching the beater’s headlights glide along the country road.
“What is your pack going to do when I show up?”
Summer bit her lip. Through the whole ride, she had that thought in the back of her mind. “I’m not sure.” She glanced at him. “Your sleeves are long enough and the moon is only a waning crescent, so it might go unnoticed.”
“Yeah. Let’s assume they’re going to figure it out right away,” Chuck told her with a grimace. “Then what? Do they shoot me on sight? Change and tear me to pieces? Hide my body? Eat me? Wait. Why are you laughing?”
Summer was doubled over, wheezing, and pounding her fist on the beater’s dashboard with laughter. Dusty flakes of desiccated vinyl flew off with each thump.
She inhaled in choked gasps, trying to stop the laughter.
“Summer,” Chuck said testily. “You’re going to destroy my poor car.”
When she finally regained her control, she grinned at him. “Eat you? Eat. You.” Another small laugh burbled out of her but she controlled herself. “Some of the Aunties don’t eat meat when they’re on two legs and most of the Uncles couldn’t, wouldn’t, shoot a gun if their life depended on it.” She shook her head. “You really have a lot to learn. We’re people, Chuck. Yeah, maybe a little more hippy-dippy than mainstream Americans and maybe we have a bit of a strange after-hours social life once a month, but still people. Would a rational American person shoot you on site? Eat you?”
“This is the Deep South,” he told her blandly.
Summer’s grin broadened. “That’s fair, guns are life here. But no, you won’t be shot. I can’t say they’ll be happy to see you, but you won’t be shot.”
“That’s both reassuring and worrying.”
“Because they wouldn’t fight back?”
“Because they wouldn’t fight back,” he confirmed.
Summer blew out a breath. “Yeah,” she said, all levity gone. “I guess I should warn them, huh?”
Chuck didn’t bother to answer.
Summer pulled out her phone, the latest overpriced glory from Apple, and hit the second number in her Favorites. “Hey, Auntie Dittany, it’s Summer.” She paused to listen. “Yeah, I know I missed it, I was,” she paused a fraction of a second to glance at Chuck, “busy.” Summer nodded at the phone and rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know. I know. Look, I’m coming over soon.” There was another pause. “Uh, kinda now-ish?”
Chuck could hear a squeal through the phone as Summer held it away from her head.
“Auntie!” she scolded. “I’m,” she caught a passing road sign as the beater’s misaligned lights caught it, “five miles away. And I’m bringing a friend. Not that kind of friend!” she almost shouted and hung up.
There was a moment of silence.
“So, I let them know you’re coming,” she said calmly.
“Yeah, you sort of glossed over the part about me being a sex hungry, werewolf killing demon, but I’m sure it’ll come out.”
“Slow down a bit, we’re almost there.”
Chuck squinted out the window into the semi-gloom of the beater’s crossed headlights. County road maintenance had battled spiky, prehistoric looking ferns and underbrush back to the tree line, some five feet from the road’s edge, but he saw nothing in the cleared space.
“There. Turn there.”
Summer’s “there” was nothing more than a gravel road that came up fast, even after Chuck had slowed the beater to a sedate pace. He tapped the breaks and turned, the ancient car rocking along the ruts as its tired ground and popped the gravel. The prehistoric ferns had won their territorial battle here and closed in as the Southern pines loomed over them. Chuck finally eased the beater to a stop at the edge of a ring of cabins nestled in the pines. The car’s engine, far newer than the frame, purred to a stop, and he removed the keys.
Chuck unfastened his seatbelt but settled his hands in his lap.
“Last time I ask, are they going to shoot me on sight or eat me?”
Summer gave him a grin that would have been lost in the light of the half moon if it weren’t for his supernatural vision. “No, Chuck. You’re safe from my incredibly ferocious, mostly-vegetarian werewolf family.”
He turned to give her a lopsided grin. A flutter and roiling heat settled low in her belly. Summer looked away, annoyed that he would try to charm her at a time like this.
“Come on,” she said flatly. The beater’s springs creaked and the door whumped shut. Summer crunched across the gravel between cabins without looking back to see if Chuck followed her.
“Summer!” A jubilant voice called through the semi-dark.
Summer squinted across an unlit bonfire to a figure making its way to her.
“Yes, girl.” The voice creaked with age like and old oak. Solid, strong, unbent by its years but swaying as the winds blew it.
Summer ran forward and landed in the man’s embrace. “Hey, Unca Mull!”
He spun her around in a spry hug, his work boots crunching the gravel path. “Good to see ya, pup!”
“Unca!” Summer scolded.
“Ok m’girl, I know. Yer a grown woman,” he said gruffly. “But, yer still m’girl.”
“Always, Unca Mull!”
Chuck approached almost silently, a strange effect over a gravel path.
“Who’s he?” Mullein asked, his creaking oaken voice cautious.
“Uncle Mullein, this is Chuck. Uh, Jackson Elliot. He’s,” she only hesitated a second, “a friend.”
“Friend, huh?” Mullein asked in a wry tone.
“Friend, Unca,” Sumer told him flatly. “He’s an incubus and a Hunter. He’s a friend,” she stressed the last word with deadly importance.
Even with the improved eyesight of a demon or a wolf, Mullein’s reaction was hard to read. He stiffened slightly, muscles tensing, before giving his shoulders a shake and relaxing.
“Just a ‘friend,’ Summer girl?”
“Yes!” she said hotly.
“Very well,” he said skeptically.
Chuck stayed silent.
“I’m not letting him use his demon charms on me, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Summer told him fiercely. In truth, he was beautiful and resisting him was one of the hardest things she’d done in a long time.
Mullein gave her an odd look and glanced at Chuck.
“Unca,” she said pleadingly, “I’m not under his magical influences.”
“I know,” Mullein told her.
“Well,” she hesitated. “Well, ok then. I need to talk to the Elders. Can you get them together?”
“Hon, most of them have gone to bed. Dittany is still up watching the pups before bed, but–”
“Please, Unca Mull, this is important. I need them. All of them. Hell, we probably need most of the pack.”
“Ok, girl. If it’s that hell fire important. Suppose you wouldn’a brought the demon here if it weren’t hell fire important,” he gave Chuck another unreadable look. “I’ll round them up and meet you in the pack house.” Mullein gave her a last squeeze, nodded sharply to Chuck, and strode off down the gravel path.
“Sorry, Chuck, I didn’t mean to make you sound like a bad guy, but I needed them to know I was here by my own choice.”
There was a long silence before Chuck replied. “Yeah, no, I get it. Don’t want to be eaten and all that,” he said. He gave her a quick smile.
That smile sent another flutter through her and it was all she could do to suppress a growl after she had vouched for his conduct to her Uncle.
Chuck’s eyebrows rose as he watched her bristle and his grin widened into a bit of a leer.
She growled once, deep in her throat, and some of its ferocity was lost to human vocal cords. “Yes, and behave yourself or I’ll shift and eat you myself!” she hissed.
“You have to shift first,” he asked, his deep voice turning silken.
Summer ground her teeth in several kinds of frustration.
They walked wordlessly to the Pack House, Chuck drifting along in Summer’s wake. The Pack House was a medium sized wooden cabin. Unlike the prefabricated monstrosities suburbanites bought as summer homes, it had an aura of fine craftsmanship. The sides were planed board, not the faux log look the yuppies loved, and Chuck could see the craftsmanship of the of the perfectly fit corners. Small windows were fogged with age but otherwise clean and dust free. When Chuck followed Summer on to the small porch, it gave only the slightest creak at his weight.
The Pack House began to fill almost immediately. Chuck, lounging quietly against a wall, watched surreptitiously as Summer greeted each pack member who entered. She greeted each person with a quick hug, a word of greeting, and a pat on the back or cheek. He was interested to note that anyone who appeared visibly older than her was addressed as “Aunt,” “Auntie,” “Uncle,” or “Unca.” Until now, he had assumed that his research had been incorrect and that her parents had more siblings that he’d previously known.
“Yes, I brought a friend,” Summer’s voice only hitched for a brief moment, “Aunt Rose. No, I haven’t known him long,” Summer told a spry old matron who thumped in imperiously with her walker. She seemed to have no shortage of spry older relatives. In fact, not a single older member of the pack was overweight or infirm. Elderly, yes, but all still carrying the gnarled strength of a maple.
“Auntie Dittany, good to see you. Yeah, I’m sorry I call so infrequently.” A kiss on the cheek passes between each woman. “Oh, him?” Summer glanced to Chuck, almost by accident. “You know, the usual ‘boy stalks girl, boy kidnaps girl, boy releases girl, boy and girl go to meet girl’s family’ kind of thing, Auntie Dee.” Summer gave her Auntie a wicked grin. “Best tropes, 10/10 would recommend.”
Her Aunt gave her a politely blank stare as Chuck tried to keep from swallowing his tongue, holding down his laughter.
“You like the boy,” the Auntie cackled quietly. Only Chuck’s heightened senses allowed him to hear her delighted murmur.
“Uh, no, Auntie Dee. I–” Summer’s eyes flicked to the corner where Chuck had positioned himself, “It’s just him using his incubus tricks on me. You know, seducing me into thinking he’s more handsome, charming, and sexy than he should have any right to be. Something he puts out makes me feel like this,” Summer whispered.
Chuck watched with interest as the Auntie cackled and grinned at Summer. “Girl, you are a werewolf and a damn strong one! He’s an unchosen incubus, unless I miss my guess.” It was Chuck’s turn to start. He didn’t twitch a muscle but everything in him strained to hear the crone’s words. “He doesn’t have the power to sway you.” She poked Summer in the center of her chest with one gnarled finger. “What you feel is coming from you, girl!”
“What? But, everything I feel–” Summer’s shocked whisper cut off abruptly but still carried to Chuck, who jerked upright in surprise.
She didn’t know. Summer genuinely didn’t know that he had no real power over her.
And she found him damn attractive.
Chuck fought to suppress the grin than threatened to crack his face.
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