The full moon poured silvery light down around me as I arrived about eight minutes late for my job interview with a vampire. Mr. Paduraru had kindly agreed to meet me in my little town of Moonlight, instead of giving me confusing directions to some place in the city, that I'd never before driven to by myself. I chose a bar that was easy to direct him to from the tollway. The Saloon resided on the corner of Sunbank and Route 30.
Normally, it would only take me ten minutes to drive from my house to this bar, except that a huge John Deere tractor, hauling just-picked corn, took up the whole damn road, and I had to follow it the one mile from my house to turn onto Sunbank.
This was not your ordinary nine-to-five office job for which I was applying. The ad had read, “Clairvoyant needed. Only serious applicants need apply.” Disbelief had filled me as I read the ad, and I read it five or six times before I dialed the number. It was long distance—a Chicago area code—and I made mistakes before I'd gotten it right.
Yes, I was nervous about the interview. I didn't know he was a vampire until I spoke to him over the phone, of course. How I knew this was second nature. Sometimes all I had to do was walk up to a house I'd never been inside before, and I knew the layout of the place; or, the emotions of the people inside a room would sometimes flood me, and every once in a while, merely by speaking to someone on the phone I would get a “read”.
This was how I knew that Mr. Paduraru was equipped with fangs, and drank blood.
Mostly, though, I only needed to touch something to get a read, sometimes they came as visions. I didn't do that often. Not at all, if I could help it. Being a clairvoyant sometimes sucked, especially on a social level. Early on, I'd had to learn to shield my mind against this ability, or hide in a closet—literally—or go insane. The gloves I always wore were my only other protection. I'm a Touch Clairvoyant, which is very rare.
Climbing down out of my Jeep, I took in the other vehicles in the lot. There were seven cars—well, three were cars; the rest were pickups. Not many people here, but it was Monday.
Black and sharp, my shadow advanced ahead of me on the gravel lot as I walked toward The Saloon. I'd turned twenty-one four weeks ago, and had only been here once. I spotted a sleek, black Jaguar parked near the building. This could not belong to any of the regulars inside. It had to have been Mr. Paduraru's.
Curious, I angled for it and stopped next to it, pulled in a little breath to steady myself, and closed my eyes. Suddenly, my mind sent me a flash of an image: Twin white spires cutting skyward over a Chicago skyline.
Whoa. I had a little bit of a head-spin as I opened my eyes.
As the spinning stopped, a wave of energy hit me, totally and inconceivably savage, and possibly carnivorous. A tangled emotion that, as a human, I couldn't fully appreciate. In fact, I didn't know where it came from.
That's when I saw a low shadow ease from a dense copse of trees, around the far side of the building. When it emerged from shadow into the light recognition threw me; I could hardly believe what I was looking at. Large and gray with four legs, and big yellow eyes staring right at me, the creature growled low and menacing.
Keys still in my hand, I froze and surveyed my surroundings. I was alone. The wolf stood between the tavern and me. Behind me, and about fifty yards beyond my Jeep, the two roads that converged at the corner didn't have a lot of traffic. The closest house was simply too far away.
Without warning, the wolf lunged at me.
I screamed. For one frozen moment, I thought I was dead. All of my twenty-one years flashed before my eyes.
Big, sharp teeth grasped my free arm—the one I held up to protect myself. I batted at the animal with my purse, smacking it pretty hard, and it let go of me. I kicked him, connecting a blow to the rib cage, but this did little to deter him. By the loping, little jump he made to stay clear of my swipe, I sensed this was play to him.
The wolf snatched my purse and ripped it out of my hands, then shook it as though it were a living thing. Tossing it aside, he snarled and lunged at me again, snapping at my left hand—the one that still gripped the keys. Automatically I had made sure that I had a few keys sticking up between my fingers, like a weapon, when his mouth clamped shut around my hand, sharp teeth scraping my fingers and knuckles through my gloves.
My first reaction had been to run like hell, but then, I'd decided to fight for all I was worth.
My hand was now trapped inside the animal's mouth, but he didn't crunch down, but held it there firmly while making a terrible growling deep in his throat, and then pulled, as though he was going to take me somewhere. I planted my feet, and skidded about five feet as he pulled. Fear seized me temporarily, leaving me unable to comprehend why this animal had attacked me, or what it wanted.
Although perhaps a minute had elapsed while dealing with this beast, I wondered if anyone had heard my screams inside. Well, no. For one thing, they were all into the football game on the big screen TV—I could hear their boisterous cheers from inside all the way out here.
The keys rattled around in the huge wolf's mouth as he renewed his grip. Then the creature made a sudden whine, as though he might have bit down on one of the keys wrong, and they had stabbed him, and he let go. My hand came away from the grip the animal had on me, and with the momentum, I fell on my butt. Sharp gravel bit and scraped my backside and legs through my nylons and cotton skirt. Rolling over to my knees, I scrambled to gain my feet, but he knocked me down from behind. In the next moment, the horrible beast was on top of me, big paws on my back, pushing me back down to my knees, sharp gravel knifing into me, making me screech again. He had hold of my dress and I heard it rip.
Why couldn't anyone in the bar hear me screaming?
Something dark lurched from the edge of my periphery, pulling my gaze about ten feet away. Renewed fear reverberated through me.
Another damned wolf.