A Tale by Moonlight: Chapter Four

Jack watched the police car leave with Talia in the backseat. There was no way that she could be involved. No way. However, his stomach flipped over and his heart lurched as he saw her face, her unabashed sadness at having lost her friend. He wanted to follow them, to find her and comfort her, but he knew he was better off staying put and getting more information on what happened to Alec.

He had known something was up when Alec didn’t respond to his texts. Normally Alec was quick to pop off a response, but there had been since early the night before. Arriving at the faire grounds, he could smell the scent of blood in the air, metallic and fresh. He immediately rushed to the police line to confront the officers. Naturally, they didn’t know anything, but when he saw Talia, he knew it was Alec. He had guessed as much, but seeing her in the police car confirmed it.

Such a damn shame, another life wasted…

Who would have done this? Kill a vampire? The idea was pretty bizarre. It was highly uncommon for any mundanes to kill them. When it did happen, it was typically an interspecies killing, due to some miscommunication of some kind or a perceived slight. He’d known of some witches who were engaged in rogue killings before, but nothing against the vampire community. There were also the SpellCasters, but they were known for practically vaporizing their victims into nothing. Demons would have left a mess. Something like this, though… He’d never seen this before.

Jack’s eyesight showed him the killing up close, despite the police barrier. Alec was strung up from one ankle, his other leg bent at the knee so it crossed over his straight leg. His arms were folded across his chest, and his eyes were closed. His face was peaceful, almost bearing a hint of a smile. If he hadn’t known any better, he would have thought Alec was resting in a very unique position, perhaps a play on mythic vampire lore. 

But this was definitely murder. Alec’s head had been practically severed from his body, hanging on only by mere strands of flesh. The spine had been cut cleanly through, and a knife handle protruded from his back, obvious to the eye when his hanging body turned in the breeze. That same breeze wafted in his direction and Jack had to cover his mouth, the stench of decaying vampire flesh turning his stomach. He turned away, and that was when he saw her, diminutive in the patrol car.

Now he was left trying to determine what happened to Alec and why they had taken Talia into custody.

Before he could establish anything, he had to take care of some things. He was due in the studio today with the band. With the death of Alec, he had to let them know what happened and that their participation in the festival was at risk. And despite the atrocities in front of him, he still had his day job to do as well. 

Hurrying from the scene, Jack headed to the local coffee shop, We’re So Baked, and ordered some lattes, his own with a triple shot of espresso. He grabbed a couple pastries and dashed back to his truck. Putting the coffees in the cup holder, he shifted into gear and drove to his tattoo studio. 

Standing outside under the awning was his partner, Willa Redmond. Her long, bubble gum purple waves were loose and hanging over her shoulders, her rich, chocolate brown eyes following his truck as he parked across the street. She was leaning against the brick face, her brown tank top tight against her chest while her blue jeans hung loose on her hips, her skin covered in vibrant ink. When he walked up with the coffee and pastries, she pushed away from the brick, stepping forward with her brown boots. Cooing like a little dove, she quickly took hold of a cup, wrapping her hands around it to warm them. Her fingers were decorated in sterling silver rings, tigers eye, and runic artwork, some of which Jack had put there.

“Oh you’re a lifesaver, Soro.”

“Glad I could help.”

“Yum.” Willa took a cautious sip from the cup and sighed. “Nectar of the gods, bring me to life.”

“At least give it a minute to kick in.”

“Oh I will. Two or three anyway.”

As Jack unlocked the door to the shop, he glanced at her. “I’m going to have to leave early today. I have studio time with the band later.”

“Sure thing, no problem.”

“Also, I may be out tomorrow.”

“What? Why?”

“Something’s come up. A friend passed away.”

Willa stopped mid-sip. “Oh that’s shitty. I’m so sorry, dude.”

They walked inside together. “Thanks. I need to find out where to pay my respects.”

“Anything I can do to help? Do you need anything from me? I mean, consider the shop taken care of, of course…”

“I know you’ll hold things down here. That’s really all I need.” Jack looked around the shop. “Actually, I think I’ll just head out now, if you’re cool?”

“Absolutely.”

“And if you were planning on setting up the flyers for the festival, let’s hold off on that just yet. I want to confirm it’s not going to be interrupted by this.”

“Was your friend involved in it?”

“They were the organizer.”

“Oh damn.” Willa put her cup down and reached out, grabbing Jack and bringing him into a big hug. When she pulled back, she put on a smile for him. “I’ll take care of things here. No worries. You go do what you need to.”

Jack nodded. As he headed back out the door, Willa called after him, “Say hi to the boys for me!”

* * *

Len Dedham was being a notorious shit.

Jack loved the guy, having known Len for over a decade, but Len could be a real pain the ass, especially when he was drinking. Jack had only just gotten Len out of a scrap with the band manager, and now he was walking in on another altercation. Len was wicked pissed and talking shit with the other guys. The band guitarist, Mafioso, looked ready to throw a punch, and at his height, it would land hard and heavy.

Jack stepped in between them and held up his arms. “Whoa. Whoa. Just whoa. Take it easy, guys.” Once he was sure that they had ceased fire, he stepped back. “Will someone tell me what the hell is going on?”

Mafioso’s dark brown eyes never left Len’s face as he scowled. Instead of speaking, he just waved his hand in Len’s direction and walked away to the sound booth, the lighting glinting off his shaved head. That was Mafioso for you: no talk, all hand gestures. 

The door shut snugly after him, and Jack glanced back at Len and their drummer, Isaac Whitmoore. Isaac’s long blonde hair hung over his hazel eyes, hiding his previously broken nose that was still healing. He was sitting, watching the altercation and twirling his sticks. When he caught Jack’s gaze, he stopped twirling and simply shrugged. Meanwhile, Len’s short brown hair was haphazard and sticking up at all angles. His normally bright blue eyes were bloodshot and twirling, a clear indication he’d gone overboard with his vodka and a couple of pills. He was rubbing his chin, his fingers sliding through his goatee as if he’d already been hit. Maybe Jack had gotten there too late?

“You okay, man?”
“Mafi sure packs a punch.” 

Yup, Jack had been a little too late for the first one. At least he’d been able to save Len from a black eye or a bruised ego. Jack sat down next to him and socked him in the arm.

“Ow! Fucker!”

“It could’ve been a lot worse if Mafioso had really laid into you. You should thank me.”

Len’s jaw dropped as he looked back and forth from Jack to Isaac, the latter of whom just nodded solemnly. “Are you kidding me? One little joke! That’s all I said, and the guy wants to knock my block off.”

“Must’ve been a shitty joke.”

“It was,” replied Isaac, who had resumed twirling his sticks.

“See? Don’t tell shitty jokes to Mafi.” Len groaned at Jack, who stood up in front of him to stare him down. “Now, are you ready to sing? Think you can manage it?”

“Yeah, yeah. I can manage it.” Len began to stand up and fell back into his seat. “Just give me a minute.”

Jack threw his head back and stared at the ceiling, sighing in exasperation with what was growing to be a more common antic by Len. When he brought his head down, he looked over at Isaac, who was just shaking his head. At least the two of them were in agreement.

“Speaking of singing, I’m going to have to confirm the festival is still on.” At his words, Isaac looked up, and Len closed one eye to fix a solid gaze on him.

“Say what now?”

“The organizer – my friend, Alec – has died.” 

“Oh shit, man. That sucks. I’m sorry.”

“Thanks. But now I’ve gotta find out if the gig is still gonna happen.”

Isaac spoke up. “Can’t that wait? Let the man be buried first?”

“I don’t think burials were his thing.” Vampires were known for cremations. Most of them had lived too long to have that many friends who would show up for a funeral anyway. 

“Well then…” Isaac made a wide gesture and stood up, walking over to his 5 piece kit. He sat down on his stool and twirled one of his sticks, then began testing his equipment for sound. Clearly, he was ready to move forward.

Jack looked back at Len and put a hand on his shoulder. “I need you with a clear head.” He peered into Len’s eyes, checking for signs he was chilling out. “Are you cool?”

“Yeah. I’m cool.”

Len got up and moved to the mic, conducting a series of tests while Jack tuned his guitar. Mafioso eventually came back inside and proceeded to tune his strings. After a bit, the guys began to play, and it was like nothing had happened earlier. They were fluid, smooth, and strong. There would need to be some tuning of their performance and confirmation of their set prior to the festival, if it was still taking place, but Jack was sure they would kill it.

* * *

The faire grounds were quiet. It was after dark, and the vendors had closed up and gone home after the customers left. Jack had noticed everything tended to shut down at dusk, which was perfect for him to come back and get a better handle on what happened. He parked his truck and got out, shutting the door quietly to avoid rousing anyone who might be lingering. Walking over to the police tape, he pulled it up so he could maneuver underneath it. Heading over to the tree where Alec had been found, he felt something creep down his back, the sense of something more in the air, and he shivered. 

The vibes were bad.

Nothing was left except the yellow tape and a few spray-painted marks on the ground. He could still smell the blood that lingered on the ground. Beyond that, he couldn’t get much else. The scents from the grounds were so convoluted, it was difficult to separate what was part of the scene and what was part of the surroundings. He caught wind of spices, herbs, sweat, and vanilla. None of that sent his senses into overdrive, but he still stored it away in case he ran across that combination again.

Then he heard a sound: faint, behind him, someone breathing. He whirled around and was face to face with her. What was she doing here?

Talia Morgen was mere feet away, watching him.

A Tale by Moonlight: Chapter Three

“And where have you been hiding?”

I swallowed. Hard. “Hello, Callum.”

In the dim light of the entryway to Beulah’s apartment, I had run into him. The bane of my existence. The scourge of my life’s blood. His long, mushroom brown hair looked muddy in the light, and his face was gaunt, his cheekbones hitting like perfect points to accentuate his lips. A faint goatee outlined his mouth and chin. To be honest, I used to find his features sexy, but not anymore.

I wanted a sword so that I could run him through. 

Instead, I smiled politely and tried to skirt around him and into the apartment. He held up a hand to stop me. “Where are you headed to?”

“Inside.”

“Don’t have time for a little catch-up?”

“Nope. I really don’t.”

“Oh c’mon, Tali.”

I glared at him. “You don’t get to call me that anymore.”

“No?”

“No.” I shoved his hand away and pushed past him, scurrying up the steps into the apartment doorway. I let it slam behind me and ran up the steps inside to get around the other people who had gathered in Beulah’s place on the second floor. As soon as I was surrounded, I stopped and sucked in a breath. I must have been a sight because I felt a hand on my shoulder and whipped around to find Beulah staring at me with concern in her eyes.

“I didn’t invite him.”

“Oh good goddess, I know that sweetie. Who the hells would?”

“Are you alright?”

“It’s nothing that a shot wouldn’t fix.”

“Whiskey or rum?”

“Oh whiskey. Gimme the good stuff.”

“Coming right up.”

Beulah left me and headed towards a makeshift bar on the other side of the living room. My nerves were shot. I found a seat against the wall and gazed around at the numerous people who had decided to make her apartment the liveliest place this side of Mardi Gras. Everyone always had a good time in her presence. She had an unassuming way about her that drew people in, encouraged them to be themselves and let loose a little. Admittedly, I loved that about her. She was someone that made you want to be better than you were.

Returning with a whiskey in hand, Beulah handed it over and sat beside me as I downed it. The burn felt like a great relief to the cold chill that Callum had set into my bones. Holding the glass tightly in my right hand, I looked over at her.

“How does he always manage to do that?”
“Do what?”

“Show up at the most inopportune times like that. I’m learning to hate him.”

“Hate is a strong word, Tali…”

“But it’s what I’m feeling.” I narrowed my eyes and pursed my lips. “And he tried to use my name like that. It makes me so mad!”

“What? ‘Tali’?”

“Yes. I hate hearing it come out of his mouth. Makes me feel gross.”

“I bet. But just remember that karma is going to have a field day with him. You need to let go of the hate, the anger.”

“But it’s fuel. I’ve done a lot just by being spurred on by it.” 

Beulah put her long, slender fingers on my forearm. “That may be, but what is it doing to your mind? To your soul?”

“Argh.”

“Exactly.” Beulah released a beautimous smile at me, and I couldn’t help but return one in kind. She had that power, that ability. I wanted to be a better version of myself around her. 

“Thank you.” I sighed. “I’m sorry I was being so bitter.”

She patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t mention it.”

I glanced around the room. “Hey, have you seen Alec?”

I nearly missed her stiffening. “Alec? He was coming?”

“Of course!” I narrowed my eyes at her. “Why do you seem so surprised?”

“Surprised? No! I thought he had something else he needed to do this evening.”

“Mmm hmm…” I gave her a once over. “Me thinks you’re keeping something from me…”

Beulah laughed, and it was melodious. Before she could speak, a boisterous laugh came from around the corner, and Sally stepped into view.

“It’s alright – I’m here! You can quit worrying now!” Sally resumed laughing, and it filled the room, rising above the din.

“Who ever worries about you!” I called out playfully.

Sally spied us and came over immediately, grabbing us both in a big hug, wrapping her arms around our shoulders. When she pulled back, an impervious smile was adorning her face. I grinned back.

“What took you so long?” I asked. “You missed the excitement.”

“What excitement?”

“Callum.”

Sally’s face instantly took on a look of disapproval. “That bastard. He was here?”

“Yeah. He tried to talk to me outside, but I wasn’t having it.”

Sally nodded. “Good. You should definitely avoid him. Don’t engage with him at all.”

“Oh I wasn’t planning on it. Beulah confirmed he wasn’t invited, so he’s just stirring the pot.”

“Damn cauldron stirrer.”

Beulah smiled. “Sometimes you have to stir the cauldron, though.”

I laughed. “We mean the kind that would stir it and tip it over.”

Her face scrunched up. “Oh yeah, that’s definitely the bad kind.”

Sally and I laughed and the three of us continued laughing and enjoying the evening. Every now and then, I looked around for Alec. It still surprised me that he would miss a good shindig. He was a known night owl and purveyor of good times. What could have gotten his attention over a party?

* * *

The early morning sun was just making its first hints over the horizon, and that was muffled by the trees lining the border of the grounds. The sky was still sleepy, waking from its evening slumber, and the lavender hues of the west were being touched with peachy pink from the east. The air was cool, a slight breeze playing through it, and a light layer of dew was draped across the ground.

The faire grounds were swarmed with police cars. Blue and red lights melded into purple across the field and illuminated the white tents in dancing bright colors. Officers were walking here and there, with K-9 units sniffing and whining as they utilized their work energy to detect the evidence of a crime.

I had just parked my Jeep, anxious to get to the tent and get a personal reading in before the customers would start to arrive. I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of the telltale lights and vehicles decorating the field. My quick steps faltered and I found myself stopping and surveying the grounds for signs of the obvious problem.

Then I saw something hanging from a tree limb down towards my section of tents. It was too far away to tell what it was, but it was large and awkward. I crept closer until I reached the line of officers who told me to stop and stay back. I made eye contact with one of them, who seemed to be interested in why I was so curious.

“Don’t come any closer, ma’am.”

“I work here,” I said, gesturing towards the tents. “What’s happened?”

His eyes were hidden by the visor of his uniform cap. “Just stay back ma’am. There’s been a murder.”

Shocked, I felt my eyes widen and my mouth open slightly. We hadn’t had anything like this happen in our neck of the woods in ages. I couldn’t believe it.

But then I felt it: a stark chill descended down my spine and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I excused myself and went back to my Jeep. I whipped out my personal deck of assorted tarot cards and shuffled. Closing my eyes, I shuffled repeatedly and kept my question in my mind. I stopped shuffling and the first card I pulled was the Hanged Man. A man hung from a tree limb by one ankle, his other leg bent at the knee and crossing over his tied leg. I gasped, realizing this is what I had seen hanging from the tree. I pulled the next card.

The Three of Cups. It was a friend.

Oh my goddess… Alec!

I threw my cards down and ran back to the police line. “Officer! Officer!”

“I already told you to–”

“I need to know if that’s Alec Ronan!”

The officer tensed put his hand to his gun holster. “How do you know that?”

Stunned, I froze. “It… It’s him? You’re telling me it’s him?”

The officer leaned forward towards me. “How do you know Alec Ronan?” He looked at another officer and gestured for them to come over. They began to make their way to where I stood, moving slowly like I was a wild horse.

“Sweet goddess… It’s Alec, it’s Alec…” I began to cry, softly, then harder still. I sank to the ground, falling to my knees as I realized my best friend was gone. Someone had killed my friend, hung him up like the Hanged Man card in the tarot. 

“Ma’am, I’m going to need you to come down to the station, so we can sort this out.”

“Oh… Okay…” I mumbled, unsure what else to say. One officer took me by my upper right arm and began leading me towards a police car. I let them put me in the back, the musty smell assaulting my nostrils but failing to shake me out of my delirium. 

My best friend was dead.

As I sat there, waiting for them to drive us away, a truck pulled up, and I realized I was seeing Jack Soroka. I watched him climb out and approach the police line. Just like me, the officer kept Jack from getting closer, holding up a hand and having to gently push Jack back and away from the line. He seemed frustrated, turning and looking around in discontentedness. Then he saw me watching him. His eyes held shock, sadness, and a touch of confusion. What did he know? 

He began to walk over right as the other police officer climbed in and turned the engine on. Before he could reach us, the officer was reversing and then shifted to drive away. I watched him, watching me with glowing green eyes, and I felt empty inside as I rode in the back, heading towards the police station.

A Tale by Moonlight: Chapter Two

Was it me? Was there something wrong with me?

No, the hell with that!

My brain was in a scramble after finally meeting the viking bass player from Awaking the Misery. Jack. Goddess, he was even more handsome in person. It was like watching a fire storm walk up to you and being swept away in it. He was hot

But he was also…disappointing? Alec gave me a great introduction, and I thought I was being pleasant enough, but he seemed so…elusive? Removed? That’s why I thought maybe it was me. Maybe I just wasn’t interesting enough? 

But on second thought, I also knew that was bullshit. I was more than good enough for any man, let alone one that couldn’t spare me but a handful of words. And I knew that I was valuable and meaningful, even if he didn’t.

Inside my tent, I stopped pacing; I was going to wear a path in the ground if I didn’t. My hair fell over my shoulder as I picked up my cards and gave them a good shuffling, pulling out three of them to give myself an easy situational reading. Each card I pulled was placed face-up on the table in front of me so I could review them closely. I had pulled the Star reversed, the Moon reversed, and the Two of Cups. 

Apparently something interesting was coming.

I glanced through the veil of the tent and watched Alec walking with Jack on the other side of the grounds. Then I looked back at the cards. Was it him? Was he the person coming for me?

Shaking my head, I put the cards back in the stack. I stood up straight and pushed through the veil to walk out into the open. Ignoring the intriguing view, I turned to the right and walked down towards the food vendors. Passing by several delicious stands, I stopped in front of the one marked Hampton Delights. Rounding the vending counter, I headed towards the back and pulled back the tent flap.

“Anyone home?”

A booming woman’s voice called from deep inside the tent. “Me!”

“Oh, thank goodness. I thought I was going to have to mull this over by myself.”

“Hey, Tali!” Sally Hampton stood up from behind a rolling cart full of baked goods. Her bright red hair was pulled back in a ponytail, giving a full display of her collarbone and ample bosom in her lowcut top. She had an white and red checkered apron draped over her aqua shirt and black capri pants. “What’s got you in a tizzy this morning?”

“Viking guy. That’s what.”

“Viking guy? Not sure I know who that is?”

“You don’t. He’s a new guy, part of a band that’s going to be playing during the festival.”

“And he’s a viking?”

“Not exactly. He just looks like one to me.” I picked up a random chocolate chip cookie from the tray set out to my left and held it up. Sally nodded, and I began to nibble on it.

“Okay.” Sally frowned at me. “What’s the problem?”

“Alec brought him over and introduced us.”

Sally sneered at the mention of Alec’s name. “Alec isn’t the best recommendation for someone.”

“You’ve know, you’ve never told me. Why do you hate him so much?”

Sally merely ignored me. “So what happened? Did he make a stupid remark?”

“Well this guy said hardly anything. I was polite and friendy, but he barely spoke. Now I just feel off.”

“Off?”

“Yeah, off.”

“Oh, honey.” Sally took the steps needed to close the gap between us and put her arm around my shoulders. “Are you beatin’ yourself up? You know guys. They don’t know what the hell they’re doin’ around pretty girls.”

“Ha! I’m not feeling so pretty.”

“You’re gorgeous!”

“Thank you, mama.” I glanced up into her deep blue-green eyes. “I just hoped he would have been more…I don’t know, enthusiastic?”

“Maybe he was in his own mind?”

“Are you implying he was mute?”

Sally laughed. “Maybe!” 

I laughed along with her, then gave her a smile. “Thank you. I feel a little better.”

“Then my work here is done!” She gave me a squeeze before walking back over to her rolling rack. Glancing over her shoulder, she boomed, “And the whole world heaved a collective sigh of relief!”

“Aww. I’m your whole world?”

Sally laughed again. “You are, sugar. You and Chris.”

“How is that husband of yours?”

“He’s doin’ alright. Work has been real slow these past few weeks.” She turned to me, her expression pained. “We’re strugglin’, but I’m hopin’ it’s just temporary.”

Now it was my turn to comfort her. I walked over and pulled her into a hug. When I pulled back, I gave her the biggest smile I could muster. “I’m positive this is just a temporary thing. You two are going to be fine. You’ll see.”

“You sure?”

“I’m positive.”

“Well, I can’t argue with your vibes, hon.”

“Nope. You sure can’t!” I released her and began walking to the tent flap. “I’ve gotta see Beulah about the party tonight.” I turned around. “You gonna be okay? Need some help before I go?”

“Nah. I’m all set here. You go see that girl and make sure she’s comin’ tonight!”

“Will do. Love you!”

“Love you, too, darlin’.”

I left the tent and headed back into the witchy section looking for Beulah Camden’s stand. As I walked, I looked around but there was no sign of Alec or Jack. Good. I didn’t feel like running into them again, especially feeling the way I was. I tended to wear my heart on my sleeve, and it would be entirely to obvious that Jack bothered me if I was to run into them. Having to explain myself was the last thing I wanted to do right now.

Several tents down from mine was Beulah’s spot, Crystal Mojo. The dark sea-green and plum purple colors were a stark contrast to the normal white tents dotting the grounds. Her business specialized in all things crystal and gemstone, incense, runes, tarot cards, herbs, and altar supplies. If you were a witch, you wanted to visit her shop for whatever you needed. If you were a mundane, you wanted to get your herbal remedies from her. And if you were something else, she could point you in the right direction for whatever ailed you.

Sometimes I would read tarot cards in her physical shop in town. Beulah would operate the stand on the weekends, leaving her sister to operate the brick and mortar location. Today, she was getting everything set-up in anticipation of Beltane weekend. It was a popular time, only one step behind All Hallow’s Eve in the witch and pagan communities, when the peak of spring and the coming of summer would be celebrated.

I knocked on the tent pole and called out to her. “Beulah? You here?”

“Yup! Come on in, girl!”

I pushed through the flaps covering the stand and found Beulah inside her tent, straightening out a display of crystal stone towers and pyramids. She looked amazing as ever, with her soft, light brown curls, rich golden eyes, and beautiful mocha skin. Her high cheekbones and delicate nose were perfectly suited to her tall, willowy frame. Her long fingers were delicately moving each piece into place on the table into a perfect position, like Wiccan Feng Shui. 

Everytime I saw her it was like gazing at a stunning gazelle in motion.

“How are you, sunshine?”

“Oh, I’m just dandy.”

“Dandy? Like a dandelion?”

I laughed. “Yes. Just like a dandelion.”

“Don’t mind me. I’m straightening up before we open today.”

“No worries. I’m not here to bother you. I just wanted to remind you about the party tonight. Are you coming?”

Her brilliant eyes met mine. “Of course! I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to hang out!”

“Great! It starts at 7 o’clock. Don’t be late!”

“Should I bring anything?”

“Just yourself and anyone you might be dating.” I winked at her and waggled my eyebrows.

Beulah, who was always so secretive, merely smiled. “I’ll be there, don’t you worry.”

“About you? Never!” I grinned and waved, then exited the tent, leaving her to continue straightening crystals.

Walking back to my own stand, I stopped to glance around the faire grounds. Everyone was bustling about, walking to and from their stands to get their inventory ready and setup. I went inside my tent and let the curtains hide me as I people-watched. So many people were more themselves, more real, when they were in action than at any other time. This was especially true when they were unaware they were being watched. It was nice to see people being honest about who they are. Fake attitudes and behaviors were such a mentally and emotionally taxing thing to put up with.

My gaze fell on the tall form crossing the field. It was Jack, moving with a purpose towards his truck. He got inside but didn’t move. The truck sat still and quiet, and even across the distance, I thought I could feel his eyes on me. I backed myself deeper into my tent, and eventually his truck pulled forward and left. A cloud of dirt billowed behind him as he drove across the grounds and out the gate. 

I watched him leave and couldn’t help feeling a pang of…emptiness? Regret? Intrigue? What was I feeling? It was hard to describe, even to myself. I recognized that I had quickly and easily become engrossed in this tall, dark, viking of a man. I shook my head, trying to clear him from my thoughts, but they persisted. It had been a long time since anyone had been on my mind so much.

Not since Callum.

I grimaced. I swore I wouldn’t let him or his maniacal ways interfere with my life again. The man was a menace to normality. He knew how throw a wrench into everything, and he was gleeful about it. That’s not to say that I didn’t want some spontaneousness in my life – I loved the weird. Weird was wondrous. But Callum was a bane to anything serene. He deftly managed to insert himself into my life and wreck it down to the bone. He could grind the innocence from a butterfly and leave nothing behind. I was still picking up the specks and grit, molding my life back into something livable. It had only been the past three months that I had begun to feel like myself again. I had Alec to thank for that.

I stared after that billowing dirt cloud and pressed my lips together. I really hoped Jack wasn’t another Callum waiting in the wings. I wasn’t sure I could handle that a second time around.

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