Excerpt for Ruby Red and the Undead by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Ruby Red and the Undead

By Robert Wright Jr.

Copyright © 2018 Robert Wright Jr

All rights reserved.

Smashwords Edition
Cover design by: Sherrie Wright
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Any trademarks mentioned are the property of their respective
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Dedicated to all the people who have been after me to complete this story, the second Ruby Red book. This one is for you!

Also By Robert Wright Jr

Witch Way Series

Witch Way Home

Witch Way Back

Witch Way to Have

Walk the Stars series

Walk the Stars

Walk the Earth

Ruby Red series

Ruby Red and the Wolf

Demon Child series

Into Darkness

Children’s Books

Monster Under The Bed


Thanks to my wife and youngest for sharing me with the voices in my head. You’re also great sounding boards ­– without your love and support these books wouldn’t be possible.


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

About the Author

Chapter 1

Bellingham, Washington:

As usually happened this time of year, a storm had moved through the area cleansing and cooling the night. The summer moonlight glistened off the raindrops hanging on the leaves lining the urban trail. The calm after the storm was broken only by the tiny drops of water puddling beneath the trees and the soft whispers of the inebriated young lovers who staggered down the dark path.

The couple stopped in the middle of the dirt path and clung to each other, their lips meeting as their bodies intertwined in their passion as a pair of white-filmed eyes peered out from the bushes and then disappeared into the shadows.

The girl’s intoxicated giggle echoed through the night air as she pushed away from her lover and rushed down the path and into the darkness before the boy could recover. His laughter echoed her own as he caught himself and stumbled down the path after the girl.

Staggering side to side, he paused as a muffled sound beat against his dulled senses. Gazing drunkenly around, he tried to pierce the surrounding darkness. No longer amused, his fright began to counter the alcohol. “Sarah? Sarah, are you okay?” He tried to penetrate the shadows thrown around by the moon shining down through the trees and could just make out movement down the path.

Sluggishly he moved toward the sound, his senses more attuned to the dark as he anticipated his lover jumping out and scaring him as she had done in the past. “Sarah, this isn’t funny anymore. You know I don’t like it when you scare me.” A few feet down the path though he stopped as a yellow piece of cloth fluttered in the breeze and a cloying, sickening scent tickled his nose.

A smile of anticipation crossed his face briefly as he recognized the girl’s top, but it faded as he grasped the light fabric stained with a dark tacky wetness. He looked around, fear gnawing at his insides now as a single cloud took that moment to fly across the moonlit path elongating and merging the shadows.

“Sarah, stop this. I’m going to go home and leave you here if you don’t show yourself. I am telling you this isn’t funny anymore,” he whimpered. His voice cracked and quivered betraying the fright seeping through his body. A branch to the side of the trail cracked causing him to spin as the cloud fled and what little light there was filtered down to the path once more.

Six shadows stand under the trees, the semi-darkness obscuring their features. The breeze shifted toward him and that slight smell from before slammed into his face causing him to step back as he gagged from the weight of it. “Who . . .who are you? We don’t want any trouble . . .”

He never finished the sentence as the shadows fly across the path and hit him. The force and weight taking all of them into the brush behind the boy. The bushes shook violently back and forth. A stifled scream changed to a wet gurgle, then stopped. Soon there was only the sound of crunching bones and wet slurping noises. Then silence.

Mack watched from the other end of the path as the boy was attacked and dragged into the bushes to be consumed by his master’s pets. He had been sent out by Davey to collect this small band of zombies that had wandered away from their hiding place that night and had finally found them as they were finishing off the girl.

He waited as the creatures devoured the boy and returned to the path hopeful that their hunger was now sated for the night. He smiled nervously, the zombies watching him walk down the path. Their dead white eyes tracked his every movement. Slobber from their feed rolled off their lips. Stopping five feet away, he took in their grossly distended bellies and the gore that hung off various parts of their bodies and nodded at them.

Yeah, they should be easier to control now. These creatures tended to move more slowly and to listen to commands after a fresh kill and feeding. The smell of fresh blood and other nasty things drifted from the bushes as Mack wrinkled his nose in disgust and whispered. “Come, your master wants you back home.”

A tiny whisper of his master’s voice echoed inside everyone’s head. The six undead stood there for a few seconds, not a sound passing their dead lips when as one they slowly moved toward the rat shifter and then past him headed in the direction of their new home. Mack let out a small breath that he hadn’t even realized he had been holding as the zombies shuffled past him.

He looked back at the dark liquid that stained a few leaves and shrugged, a few humans here and there was no big loss. He turned and followed the master’s pets back home, not at all worried about the mess left behind.

Seattle, Washington:

The wolf shifter nervously got off the elevator and stepped down the hall under the watchful eyes of the two guards standing outside the penthouse door. His possible death sentence was crumpled in his sweaty hands. Ever since the death of the Seattle alpha three months ago all the wolves had been on edge.

After Marcus’s death, his second in command should have stepped up in his place. But the alpha’s ruthless mate, immediately upon learning of her husband’s demise, had purged the pack of anyone that would take her power. Now all that stood in her way was the Shifter Council. And they had been quiet – until now.

Both of the massive guards moved to block the double doors as he stopped before them. “I have some important news for the um – alpha.”

The guards stood there silently looking down on the wolf shifter, their eyes narrowed, and their arms crossed over immense chests that strained their suit jackets. Sweat gathered under the shifter’s arms and both guards wrinkled their noses in disgust. “Listen, she needs to see this. I . . .”

Dismissively, one of the guards growled. “She is playing.”

Now fully resigned to his fate, the shifter’s shoulders fell for a second then he perked up as he looked at the two before him. “It doesn’t matter. I have a communique from the Council. I need to see her now.”

The two guards glanced at each other then, stepping aside to clear the doors, the larger of the two grimly whispered, “Your funeral.”

The shifter sighed then knocked once before opening the door and walking into the spacious penthouse living room. He startled as the door closed behind him and a sweet voice with a slight southern twang sounded from another room. “I thought I told y’all that I wasn’t to be disturbed.”

The shifter froze and for a second considered fleeing the room when, from a back room, the alpha slinked out. She stopped and looked him up and down with grey smoky eyes. “Who are you?” Her throaty whisper floated across the room, sending a chill down his spine.

He took in the blonde hair and the barely covered body coated with a red viscous liquid then diverted his eyes as he answered in a nervous rush. “I’m from the communication center. I have an important message from the Shifter Council, Alpha.”

The alpha stood there and laughed, long and loud, before walking over to the shifter, leaving a bloody trail of footprints in her wake. “So, the damn old farts have finally decided to take notice of me have they, honey?”

“Uhm . . . well, sort of . . . I mean . . .” He stopped as her eyes flashed from that smoky grey to a deep dark purple. Without another word, he fell to his knees, his head lowered exposing the back of his neck. He extended his hand, the damp wadded up paper peeking out.

With a deep calming breath, she tenderly pulled the paper out of his loose grasp and unfolded it, ignoring its condition. Silently she read the message, irritation flaring within her. She took a breath – the message from the council could have been worse. “Have you read this note, honey?” The slow whisper of her voice washed over the shifter.

He nodded, his eyes locked on the white carpet below him as a drop of sweat hit the fabric. He waited for the killing blow then startled at the low laugh above him. “Now, darling, do you think I kill every messenger that brings me bad news?”

Brief hope flared in his heart as the shifter looked up at his alpha then quickly died as the claws of her half-formed paw tore into his throat ripping through flesh and bone. He fell back choking on his own blood, his hands groping at the raw bloody mess. “Bad news I can tolerate, honey, but fear in my men is another thing,” she whispered as she reached down grabbing the struggling shifter and tossed him across the room and through the window.

The shifter felt the glass shatter behind him and then the empty air as he hung in space for a second before he silently fell his arms windmilling until he splattered on the sidewalk ten stories below. The alpha stood at the edge of the broken window a cruel smile on her face while a gentle breeze played with her hair. The two guards rushed into the room and stopped, glancing between the broken window and their leader. “Get out and send someone down to clean up that mess below,” she whispered.

She listened to the sound of the feet behind her and the click of the closing door then tossed the paper in her hand out into the cool night air. It fluttered down. The air currents carry it past the crowd gathered below and out into the darkness.

Fae Castle (somewhere in the Ever After):

The golden torch lights flicker from the passing bodies, throwing shadows against the stone walls as the sound of marching feet echoed down the hall. The eight armed fae surrounding the little girl ignored the tinkling sound of silver enchanted chains. The chains that hung from her neck, wrists, and ankles quelled her magic as they marched toward their destination.

Reaching a set of tall golden doors, the group stopped as other guards encircled them. The doors slowly opened. Now with twenty fae around her, the group marched into the throne room.

They all halt below the queen’s throne and in a flurry of activity, all the guards moved as one turning and pointing the tips of their short spears at the child in their midst. She doesn’t move, her eyes locked on the ground. An evil little smile playing across her lips at the fear she feels permeating the ranks around her.

A harsh whisper from above makes that smile vanish. ”Cindy, Cindy, whatever are we to do with you, little one?” The young girl looked up at the figure lounging against the throne, fear and hatred warring within the depths of her eyes. Then her eyes went dead as they drop to the floor again.

A quiet laugh floated down from above, ratcheting up the anxiety in the surrounding guards. The fear now was focused on the silver-headed women who slowly climbed from the throne and moved down the steps toward the young girl. She was tall and beautiful except for the lone scar that runs from the left side of her nose through her lips to the right side of her chin. The guards in front of the dais moved aside leaving a path open for her to slither up to the girl.

She stood there looking down upon the girl, a frown touching her lips as she leisurely caressed the little girl’s hair and whispered, her lips twisted into a nasty sneer by the scar she wore, “Do you know why you are here, young lady?”

The girl, her eyes still locked on the ground, doesn’t say a word but hunches her shoulders at that soft voice as though from a hard blow. The silver-haired lady bent over, snaking her fingers through the girl’s hair and yanked her head back. She leaned in, her mouth only inches from the girl’s ear and whispered softly. “I asked you a question, little one. Do – you – know – why – you – are – here?”

A single tear lay a path down the girl’s check as a soft, scared, “Yes,” slipped from her mouth.

The lady smiled and released the little girl’s hair as once more the girl’s eyes zeroed in on to the smooth floor of the throne room. “Good. Very good, little one,” she said as she moved behind the girl, her hand once again stroking the soft hair under it. “Now since we have come to an understanding perhaps you can tell me then why you have killed my mage?”

That little evil smile flickered across the girl’s face as a tiny fire of resistance showed in her eyes. It was gone so fast that none see it. It disappeared and was replaced by the look of stone that she wore while in the presence of the silver-haired lady. “He bored me,” she whispered as she straightened her hunched shoulders just a fraction.

The lady noticed and nodded with some small satisfaction at this. She wanted the girl before her under her control, but not so broken that she would be useless. Still, though, she must be taught a lesson. Besides, mages weren’t a dime a dozen and this was the second one that the child had killed in the last three months since she had been pulled out of the dungeon.

The lady stopped as the girl whispered something else then walked around to stand in front of her. “What was that you said, Cindy?”

The girl looked up, finally meeting the silver-haired lady’s eyes for the first time. Oh, yes definitely still some fire deep down in her she thought as the girl smiled and said, “I said you bore me too.”

There were a few gasps from the surrounding guards that died quickly as the lady’s laughter echoed around the large throne room. The laughter stopped as suddenly as it started and her eyes darkened, a frown crossed her face. Her hands rose over the girl’s head. “So, we are bored, are we, little one?” she growled as the room filled with a power that almost knocked the fae guards to their knees.

The magic bounced off the walls filling the room until it was hard to breathe. Then slamming back into the silver-haired lady, it poured out through her hands and into the little girl below her. The magic emptied into the girl, filling every pore of her being with immense pain.

The agony of the magic went on for a million years, her body jerking and wallowing uncontrollably, her mouth locked open in a silent scream then suddenly it stopped. She gasped as her breath rushed in and filled starved lungs and she rolled over onto her back, her eyes wide open staring at the shadows that flickered on the throne room ceiling.

She heard a light step and the lady’s face filled her vision, a gleeful smile on her face. “So, little one, are we still bored?”

The girl gave a barely perceived shake of her head that sent spasms of pain shooting through her body. She whispered then gulped in air as the lady bent over her. “What was that, Cindy, my dear? What did you say?”

The girl looked up and blinked away the tears streaming down her face, thinking that she had never felt such pain before and that the queen couldn’t hurt her any worse than this. And so she whispered a little louder, “Please, no more.”

The lady stood up, the smile growing on her face as she looked around at the guards. “You may leave us now. Come back in three hours for her.”

The guards all snapped to attention as their leader saluted the lady. “Yes, my Queen.” All of them marched out of the throne room the last closing the door behind him so that only two figures are now in the room.

The queen looked down at the girl watching the tears that flowed from her eyes and shook her head. “Why, little one, that was only a taste of what fun we are going to have for the next couple of hours.” The queen smiled, the magic once more building. As the girl tried to roll into a ball, the pain hit again tearing into her very soul.

As the pain seared through every molecule of her body and into her soul the thought flickered through her mind that she had been wrong before: The pain before was just a taste of what was to come.

Chapter 2

Sitting on the edge of the bed the covers were thrown off on to the floor. Sweat dripped off me making my nightshirt cling to my soaked, chilled body. Slumped over in a daze, I tried to remember the nightmare that had awakened me. A loud knock on my bedroom door and squeaky whispering broke my concentration. “Ruby. Ruby Red. Are you okay?”

Slipping off the bed, I picked up a blanket off the floor. Wrapping it around my damp shoulders, I shuffled over to the door. Another voice outside my door intruded on my semi-conscious state as I reached over and flicked the lock. “Is she alright, dragon? What happened . . .” but the voice stopped as the door swung open and I stared out into the hallway at the two creatures standing there.

I stared at the odd sight of the short fae standing there. She sported a bright red mohawk and wielded two wicked, shiny silver swords that clashed with the Hello Kitty nightshirt she wore. My sleep addled mind wasn’t helped by the sight of the even shorter dragon wearing a bright pink nightshirt, white bunny slippers, and chomping on an unlit cigar. I blinked ensuring myself that I was indeed awake and not in the middle of some self-induced nightmare, but no, no such luck. This was my life now.

“Um, you two do know that it is the middle of the night, don’t you. And some of us around here need their beauty sleep,” I growled not even commenting on their sleepwear as it had taken me these last three months to convince them that clothes were mandatory if we were to live under the same roof.

The fae didn’t say a word, though she did lower the swords she carried as the red in her hair started to fade to a lighter shade of pink. The dragon, on the other hand, couldn’t keep quiet – as usual. “You look very nice, Ruby. I don’t see that you need sleep for beauty as . . .”

Holding up my hand caused the dragon to sputter to a stop so that I could get a word in edgewise. “Um, thanks, Percy, but why are you two knocking on my door at,” I looked over at the clock by the side of my bed, and then back at the two in the hallway, “frigging three thirty in the morning?”

Shane’s hair once more darkened into the bright red that signified anger as the dragon stammered. “Well – you know – I mean – well . . .”

“What he is trying to say is that we heard you yelling again. That’s why we are knocking at your locked bedroom door at this late hour, Ruby Red,” the fae snarled as she leaned against the door jamb her hair once more starting to change from red to pink with traces of black seeping in.

“What the fae said.” The dragon smiled, pointing at the fae then looking back over at me as he chomped some more on the stub of his unlit cigar. “Which, by the way, why do you lock your door? I mean there is only me and the fae here living with you.”

Without answering the dragon, I stared down at him one eyebrow cocked and waited thinking of the numerous times where one or the other of my ‘roommates’ had burst into my room or the attached bath without knocking before I had installed the lock on my door. “Oh, yeah,” he whispered as I nodded.

“Okay now that we have reestablished why I have a lock on my door how about we all go back to bed and get some sleep,” I snarled never my best when I only have had two hours of sleep or less.

Neither one of them moved. They just stood there. The dragon wore a look of concern on his face. The fae had a smirk playing on hers. “What? What do you guys want me to say? I had a stupid fricking dream. Now can we all go back to sleep?”

The fae’s smirk grew as my words echoed down the dimly lit hallway which really set me off. Like I said I’m never in the best of moods with little or no sleep. Taking a step toward her, the hair rising on my arms and my canines elongating brought her quickly out of her slouch against the door jamb and wiped that smirk from her face. The dragon’s whining voice brought me up short though. “Now you two stop this right now.”

Stopping inches from the fae, I stepped back into my room while taking a deep calming breath. That more than anything had my hairs relaxing as my teeth settled back to their normal size. “She started it with that sneer she gets . . .” I started to whine but was overridden by the fae’s voice.

“I only smirk because you do and say stupid things, Ruby Red . . .” she said in that superior tone of hers but stopped at the look in my eyes.

It was quiet in the hall for a few seconds until the dragon cleared his throat as he did a facepalm and mumbled, “Children. You two act like a couple of children.” He stopped with the facepalm and looked back up at me, his look of concern now replaced with one of annoyance. “Now, Ruby, what was this dream that has been causing you to wake up the last couple of nights in such a fit?” he asked as he glanced up and down at my soaked bedclothes.

I pulled the blankets tighter around me as I shivered in the night air. And sighed as I guessed I wasn’t going to get back to sleep until I had told them about the stupid dream. “It was a dream, that’s all.”

“Okay. So, then it shouldn’t matter that you tell us what it involved. Right?” the dragon argued back quietly.

“FINE,” I huffed back at the dragon. “It was a dream . . . well no, more like a nightmare.” I stopped talking as I thought about what had been going through my head before I had awakened.

“Yes and a nightmare?” the dragon whispered as he threw a quick glance over his shoulder at the fae.

Trembling a little either from the coolness of the apartment or from the vileness of my dreams, I huddled further down into the blanket I had around me. “I was this little girl and I . . . I mean she was getting tortured by this dark silver-haired lady,” I whispered shivering at the vividness of the images that were flashing through my mind.

No one said a word as the three of us stood there in the early morning darkness that seemed to have added a definite chill in the air. The silence stretched out for a few more seconds while we were all lost in our own thoughts when the dragon coughed and shook his head after glancing back at the fae. “Yes, well like you said it was just a dream. Sooo how about we all go back to bed and that beauty sleep you said you needed, Ruby Red.”

Shane nodded and the two turned to go to their separate bedrooms when I slapped my hand on the door to my room. “Whoa. Hold it right there you two. What’s going on?”

The two of them turned back and, as usual, the fae was wearing that blank closed look on her face while the dragon sputtered at me. “Ruby, Ruby, what makes you think there is anything going on. We just want what’s best for you and right now sleep seems to be the thing you need the most.”

I knew something was up right there. When the fae closes up and Percy gets flustered they are keeping something from me. “Uh, uh. Bull poopy. First, you demand I tell you my dream and then you blow it off as though it is nothing. Dragon, what are you not telling me. Who are the silver-haired lady and the child? I mean it is only a dream. Right?”

The dragon went silent, but the fae sighed. “Did this dark lady have a scar on the lower part of her face, Ruby Red?”

Thinking back to the dream, nightmare, or whatever it was I nodded. “Yeah as a matter of fact she did. It ran from the side of her nose through her lips and down to her chin. Who is she and why am I dreaming of her?”

The two exchanged glances and the dragon shook his head. “I was hoping that we would have more time . . .”

I slapped my door once again, the loud noise echoing down the hallway making the dragon jump and cutting off whatever he was going to say. “Dragon, if you don’t stop talking around things I’m really going to show you what I can do when I lose my temper.”

After another exchange of glances, the fae nodded as the dragon let out a large sigh and rubbed at his temple as though to banish his thoughts. “Alright, Ruby. The lady you saw was your grandmother, and I think, mind you, think since I didn’t see inside your dream that the young girl was your sister.”

“Damn.” I saw the other two nod at my reaction. “What is she doing to my sister, Percy? And better yet, how did she get a hold of her?”

The dragon shrugged which really pissed me off as he was supposed to be the watcher of Earth for the One, God, or whatever you wanted to call the all-powerful being that created all life. You would figure that he wouldn’t be so lacking in knowledge of what was happening in the world. “Okay, so guess,” I snarled at him.

The danger in my voice caused the dragon to take a step back. “I would guess, Ruby, that your grandmother was getting your sister primed to use against you. As for how she got a hold of her, well I thought that I had hidden her so that she couldn’t find your sister.”

“Yeah well you did a sucky job of that, dragon, if my grandmother has her, didn’t you?” I said as I slammed the door on the two and turned the lock.

Percy looked at the closed door and then looked back at the fae who was smirking down at him. “I think she may be a little mad at me.”

“You think?” the fae said before she turned and walked into her own room shutting her door so that the dragon was the only one standing in the darkened hallway. “Well, fine. Damn, you women sure are grumpy on a couple of hours of sleep,” he mumbled as he moved to his room across the hall from Ruby’s and closed his door.

Michael strode down the path with two other humans, his bodyguards, who were covered from head to toe in the latest military body armor while toting enough firepower to take out a small building. The early morning air was cool from the storm that had blown through Bellingham earlier in the night and he shivered a bit in the light jacket that he wore.

The quiet of the night was broken only by the slight static issuing from his bodyguards’ radios. He yawned and moved his head from side to side, trying to fight back the sleep that he needed so badly right now.

He had been up late training with Ruby Red and had just dropped her, the fae, and the dragon at home when he had received the phone call that had sent him down this dimly lit path. The coolness of the night, the smell of freshly washed foliage, and the ocean air refreshed him enough to function a couple more hours.

“How much further?” he whispered to the left-hand guard, but before he could answer they turned a corner in the path and Michael could see the red lights that were sweeping back and forth on one side of the path they were on. “Never mind,” he said as he picked up his pace.

Before he could get to where the lights were, a shadow detached itself from the darkness and whispered. “Michael?”

Michael stopped and waited as his second in command moved over to him. “Yeah, it’s me, Jay. Why am I here?”

The big man, decked out in body armor like the rest of the humans on the path, clapped a hand on Michael’s shoulder and nodded over where they both could see red lights dancing in the night. “Zombies.”

Michael watched the lights for a second then shook his head at the announcement. “It can’t be zombies, Jay. They don’t leave anything for us to find.”

Jay gave a little laugh devoid of humor and took a step toward the lights. “You want to check it out and tell us what you think it is then.”

Michael pulled back and shook his head at this suggestion. As long as he had been fighting supernaturals he had seen enough torn and mutilated bodies to last several lifetimes. “That’s okay, I believe you. So, what happened?”

“One of our patrols saw this couple come down into the park. By the time, they got down here it was all over for the couple. They caught a glimpse of the zombies and someone else with them.”

“Did they go after them?”

Jay just looked at Michael for a second before shaking his head. “Unarmed patrol. No way were they going to follow a pack of zombies and what could be their vamp.”

Michael nodded as he let out a low laugh. “Yeah, I know stupid question, I’m tired but I had to ask.” He quickly looked around then nodded at the lights that were still moving around the bushes and path. “Clean up the best you can before light. Okay?”

“Already on it, boss,” Jay said over his shoulder as he started to walk back down the path.

“And Jay,” the big man stopped and looked back at Michael. “No more unarmed patrols. We don’t need any of our people getting killed. Got me?”

Jay nodded as he turned back to get his job done before first light. Michael watched the big man move down the trail and stifled a yawn as he looked at his two bodyguards. “Let’s get back to my car so that I can get some rest, boys.” With that, all three turned and retraced their steps.

Chapter 3

After changing out of my wet nightshirt and curling up in my recliner, I tossed and turned fighting sleep not wanting to fall into that nightmare again, but soon exhaustion overtook me.

The aroma of food cooking and the sound of birds singing outside my window brought me out of a sound sleep. Stretching my aching legs and rolling my shoulders from yesterday’s workout, I heard a soft knock at my bedroom door. “Yeah?” I growled at whoever was on the other side of the wood.

“Ruby, are you up?” the quiet whine of Percy’s hesitant voice sounded through the door.

Staring at the wooden barrier and shaking my head, I crawled out of the big overstuffed recliner, unlocked, and opened the door. “Um, Percy what do you think?” I growled down at him, what little sleep I had had affecting my tolerance for stupid questions.

The dragon looked at me then down the hall toward the kitchen where I could hear voices, and someone moving around clattering pots and pans around. A delicious smell was drifting down the hallway from that direction that was starting to make my stomach ache from the lack of food. “Who’s here?”

The dragon smiled as he glanced down the hall then back at me. “What makes you think someone is here, Ruby?”

The little green dragon sure liked his head games. Sighing in frustration, I glared down at him. “Listen dragon. You don’t cook, and Shane and my cooking doesn’t ever smell that good. So, if you don’t stop fiddle-farting around and tell me who’s here I’m going to turn you into luggage.”

The dragon took a step back as he whined, “I was just playing around, Ruby. Just because you’re crabby in the morning is no reason . . .”

Reaching over and tapping the dragon on the head with my knuckle, he stopped his prattle. “I swear luggage, dragon. I’ll turn you into matching luggage. And if there’s anything left, I’ll make a purse.”

He turned as pale as his green scales would let him then took a deep breath in and out. “Fine, Miss Crabby Pants.” I so needed to get him to stop watching SpongeBob. “Michael is here and making breakfast. So, when you are ready he wants to talk to us. There. Are you satisfied?” he whined a single tear rolling down his cheek.

Great, I made the big, bad, old dragon cry. Now didn’t I feel all big and tough? The guilt washed over me as I kneeled and gave the short green scaly ball a hug. “I’m sorry. Okay? You know I’m not my best first thing in the morning.”

He gave a large sniff and I felt him wipe his face across my shoulder, soaking my nightshirt. Great, this shirt is going into the wash today, I vowed. I hugged the dragon again then stood up. I definitely was not looking at the mess he had left on my top. “Okay, so are we friends again?” The dragon nodded, a big smile plastered on his face. “Good. Give me five minutes to shower and I’ll be right out,” I said as I shut the door and clicked the lock in place once again.

“But . . .” Percy’s voice called from the other side of the door then the sound of stomping feet echoed down the hall as I headed toward my bathroom and the long overdue hot shower I needed. I had no idea what the dragon was going to say, but whatever it was could wait until I could wash the night’s sweat off me.

Fifteen minutes later, I was following the great smells down the hall thinking that the fae and dragon had better not have eaten all the breakfast that Michael had whipped up or there was going to be hell to pay. Turning the corner into the kitchen, I smiled at the heaping plates of food that filled the table. Looking over at the cook who was loading another platter of food, I grabbed a dish out of the cupboard before heading over to the table my stomach rumbling in anticipation. “Now I know why it is always nice to have you over, Michael.”

“Um, thanks, I think.” He laughed as he set the full plate of pancakes down within reach of my fork. Shoveling eggs, bacon, and other necessities on to my plate, I glanced over at Shane who was eating her regular rabbit food, and saw she was wearing an even more dour expression than she usually did.

Figuring that she was still peeved at me for my mood late last night I tried to ignore her until I noticed that Percy was sitting quietly on the other side of the table not eating a bite or talking for that matter. For the dragon, silence is totally out of character. “Okay, who died?” I laughed my loaded fork halfway to my mouth.

Michael sat down grabbing some food on his own plate as he answered: “Two teens, last night over on a southside park trail.”

My fork stopped just before my lips, my appetite forgotten as I looked around the table. “You’re kidding, right?”

Waiting in the silence that hung heavily in our kitchen, I glanced between the three of them until Michael sighed and then shook his head. “Sorry, Ruby. Two kids went down into the park and from what my men tell me some zombies had a feast on them.”

Dropping my fork on the plate, I looked over at the fae. “I thought you and the old man said that the zombies don’t leave any evidence behind.”

The fae nodded. “Usually they don’t, Ruby Red. But it seems that the vamp that created these zombies doesn’t have very good control over them from what Michael has told us about the kill.”

“Damn. Was it Davey?” I cursed the name of the vamp I should have killed three months ago when I got rid of that sucky wolf shifter father of mine. “How sure are we that it was zombies and not a shifter kill? Or some other creature out there?”

Michael looked grim as he answered me. “My men have seen all kinds of shifter killings. Believe me, this isn’t one of them. I wish it was because that would mean that we had one rogue shifter on our hands and not a zombie army. As for other creatures – well now they usually don’t kill this way either.”

Sitting back in my chair, guilt churned inside me at the thought of the two teens who had lost their lives last night. “This all my fault. If I hadn’t lost my temper with the vamp and damaged him the way I did this wouldn’t have happened.”

Michael looked down at the table while the fae wore that closed-face expression I was used to seeing. Percy though got up from his seat and walked around the table laying a hand on my shoulder. “This isn’t your fault, Ruby. Remember what the vamp did at the bar downtown before we even met him.”

The cleaning crew of a popular downtown bar had made the unfortunate discovery of the wall to wall bloodbath from a zombie feeding frenzy the day after our fight with my father’s shifters and the zombies. We figured that this was where Davey had created his zombie army. I still shuddered at the memory.

Since all the shifters from the local police department had been killed in the fight at the old man’s house, Michael’s men were now basically in charge of taking care of these matters. Something I was more than glad to let them take care of.

I looked down at the dragon as these thoughts filtered through my brain and gave him a weak smile. “Thanks, Percy, but no matter what it still sucks.”

“Yeah, I know, Ruby, but right now we need to concentrate on getting you trained so that this doesn’t happen again. So how about you finish your breakfast and we go to the gym and get started. Time is running short, you know,” the dragon said as he gave me a knowing look.

Nodding at him, I remembered that the One had only given us one year to clean up the world. After that, she said that she would start all over on this planet. With three months gone by, we were down to nine months and counting. The fae and Michael looked confused, but neither one said a word.

Glancing down at my plate, I thought there was no way I was going to be able to chow down. My stomach disagreed, betraying me with a low rumble to the contrary. The dragon was right. If we were going out to the gym to train I would need all the food I could eat. Ever since the night of my first change I had noticed that I couldn’t seem to get enough food to eat as I was always hungry. Higher shifter metabolism, I guess.

It was quiet as I dug into my plate. Well, except for the crunching from Shane’s side of the table as she ate that damn rabbit food again. Looking over at her plate of veggies and then down at the second rare steak I had piled on my plate, I was happy that my shifter half overrode the fae part of my cravings. It wasn’t that she wouldn’t eat meat, but if she had a choice she usually ate what I would call healthy food.

The four of us sat around the table eating the grub Michael had dished up. We were each lost in our own thoughts. I had just finished and was getting up from the table to get ready to go to the gym with Percy when Michael’s phone buzzed. “Yeah, what is it?” he growled.

Smiling, happy to see that I wasn’t the only one who wasn’t a morning person, I stuffed my face with some more of the hot food off my plate. The smile faded though when Michael cursed and slammed the phone down on the table. “What’s the matter? More dead?”

Michael looked up and shook his head. “Worse than that.”

Teresa paced back and forth across her mate’s old office like a caged animal. Part of her anxiety was from the way her pack seemed to be tiptoeing around her after her little temper tantrum last night, and the other was the Shifter Council member that was on the way up to see her.

She stopped and looked down at the street below and could just make out the dark stain where that coward had hit last night after she had thrown him out her apartment window. The sight brought a sly little smile to her face as she watched people walk around the area as though it was a plague.

A quiet knock on her office door wiped the smile off her face as she heard the door open and her assistant whispered, “Alpha, the council member is here.”

She nodded slightly and watched through the window’s reflection as the door opened and an old, but still powerful man walked into the room. The door was shut and quiet descended on the room.

She stood there, her back showing. She knew that this was a sign that she didn’t fear or respect the man standing by the door – or the Council that had sent him. After a few minutes, she turned and was mildly surprised that the man stood calmly in place with no sign of irritation at the rudeness that she had just shown. “Well, what do you all want?” she snarled her anxiety ratcheting up a notch once more.

The man stood there for a heartbeat then nodded at the woman standing before him. “Teresa . . .”

Teresa stomped forward, stopping as she hit her desk. “It’s Alpha to you.”

The man grinned and adjusted the cuffs of his suit. “Teresa, Teresa that seems to be in dispute right now.”

The alpha snarled and in a blink of an eye picked up and threw a glass paperweight from the desk. The missile flew past the shifter’s head and buried itself in the door behind him. The door started to open. She screamed. “GET OUT!”

The alpha stood there, her chest rising and falling in anger as she tried to decide which made her madder. That the damn man before her hadn’t even had the decency to flinch or that they were disputing her right to rule.

The man’s grin grew wider as he walked over to the wet bar and started to help himself to a drink. “I see that Marcus was right. You do have a nasty little temper, girl. I take it that splatter in front of the building was one of yours?”

Teresa caught her breath and her control as she watched the man take another glass from the bar’s shelf and fill it with the amber liquid. “Yes, that was mine, honey. If you really want to see my temper flare, I dare you to tell me that I’m not the real alpha.”

The man smiled as he walked over to the alpha’s desk and set one of the glasses down. He pushed it towards Teresa and nodded at it. “What I mean, dear, is that the majority of us are okay with you being the alpha in this area even though the way you came to power wasn’t quite kosher.”

Teresa picked up the drink and took a sip from the glass before asking, “So, what seems to be the trouble?”

The man moved around the desk and peeked out the window at the stain that painted the street below then back at its maker. “The trouble is that a minority, a very powerful minority, unfortunately, on the Council thinks that according to pack laws the one who actually killed Marcus should be the alpha of this pack.”

The glass in the alpha’s hand flew across the room, smashing against the wall as she sputtered. “Are you . . . I mean that . . . that thing . . . that . . .”

The man watched the liquid drip down the wall as he stepped up next to the woman, laying a steadying hand on her shoulder and whispered, “I think the words you are looking for is ‘abomination against nature’.”

Teresa’s breath caught in her throat at the closeness of the man and the wild, natural power that was flowing off him and mingling in the air with hers. She let out a nervous breathless laugh. “Yes, that seems to be the exact words I was going to use.”

The council shifter nodded and stepped toward the bar as he growled low under his breath. “There are those that follow the pack laws blindly and do not see the problems of handing over this part of the area to a . . . a ‘half-breed’ to run.” He poured another drink and turned and walked back to Teresa, a frown crossing his face as he set the drink down on the desk. “I mean, it’s bad enough to let a female run it, but. . .”

“Watch it, honey,” the alpha snarled as she picked up the glass and slammed the amber liquid down her throat. As it burned its way down she gave no outward sign of discomfort except for the slight tearing in her eyes.

The shifter chuckled then bowed toward the alpha. “Nothing against you, dear. I personally think you are doing a fine job here,” he said taking a quick glance at the window. “But you know how most shifters feel about a female in charge. Sooo . . .” He shrugged his shoulders leaving the thought unfinished and hanging in the air.

Teresa growled. Her eyes flashing her anger at her implied worth. “I’m still better for this area’s pack than that freak of nature,” she whispered her anger seeping from every pore of her body.

The council member nodded as he smiled at the fury he saw in the shifter before him. “Oh, I agree totally, dear. You are a hundred times better than her, but what can you do?”

Teresa’s anger died as a nasty smile played across her lips. “Easy, I’ll just kill the little bitch.”

Mack eased out of his master’s room feeling drained and lethargic as he headed down the hall toward his own sleeping quarters to get some rest. It was taking so much of his energy to feed his master in his current condition. Ever since that girl had gone all ballistic on him, Davey had not been able to truly heal himself.

The vamp still had open seeping wounds and bones that were brittle to the touch. He was in constant agony. The pain overrode everything and oozed into his pets and the shifter at times. Not that Davey had been all that sane when the shifter met him, but now the vamp seemed even more unhinged at the loss of his powers to the young half shifter – half fae girl.

The rat shifter shuddered at the picture that flashed in his head of what his master looked like now as he dragged himself down the corridor. He unconsciously rattled each doorknob along the way, double-checking that each of the rooms he passed was secured. With the loose control that his master had over his pets, he needed to make sure that there would not be a repeat of last night’s escape and feeding frenzy.

The rat shifter eased himself into his room at the end of the corridor and on to his bed with a stifled groan and accompanying sound of muscles popping and snapping. As sleep overtook him his last thoughts were hopes of finding some young thing that his master could drain and try to regain his former strength and, hopefully, his looks.

Hours later, Davey slithered out of his room and moved down the hallway past the rooms that housed his pets. Stopping at the rat shifter’s bedroom, he stood there listening to the even breathing of sleep seeping through the door and smiled. Time to go out and make some more pets, but these zombies he wouldn’t be bringing back to his hidey hole. No these he would hide, sort of an ace in the hole that not even the shifter would know about. With a deep breath and still wearing that secretive smile, the vamp glided out the basement door at the end of the hall.

Cindy rolled over on the soft bed, every fiber of her being crying out in agony at the abuse the queen had inflicted on her body. The soft morning light from the ever after filtered through her room as she heard the door whisper open and then quietly shut.

She lay there, her eyes tightly closed as soft footsteps crossed the thickly carpeted floor and stopped at the edge of her bed. “I know that you are awake, little girl. So, you can stop pretending and look at me.”

With a quiet moan, the girl’s eyes fluttered open and stared up into the dark depths of the silver-haired women. A tiny sad smile sat on her face as she looked down at the girl as she shook her head. “You know, my child, I really don’t like hurting you like this.” Cindy let out another little sound that the queen ignored as she gently caressed the girl’s face with one hand. “In fact, like I’ve said before, it is your sister’s fault that you are even here. Why are you going through so much pain? Suffering so much, dear?”

Cindy shuddered at the soothing touch that only hours ago laid waste to her young body as tears slipped down her cheeks. As the Queen’s hand slowly moved up and down her face an anger at her unknown sister began to build, replacing the pain in her body. “That a girl,” the queen whispered as a soft subtle magic flowed from her hand into the weary girl. “Feel the pain ease away as you direct your anger toward the one who sent you here. The sister who doesn’t want you. The one who wants you feeling all this pain.”

Cindy closed her eyes as the whispered words of the queen soaked into her dazed and confused mind. Images of a young red-headed woman standing over her pain-racked body, laughing as she jerked around on the floor, danced through her mind.

Chapter 4

Glancing around at the fae and dragon, I wondered what could be worse than being dead, but all I got from them was blank stares and shrugs. “Okay, so what is going on now, Michael?”

The human took a deep breath and sighed at my tone before spitting out this newest bit of news. “Well, it seems that the Werewolf Shifter Council has sent a representative to meet with you.”

A bark of laughter escaped my lips, dying quickly when I saw that I was the only one that thought this was amusing. “What the hell? You cannot be serious!” No one answered as I looked at each of my breakfast companions in turn. “Why do they want to meet with me?”

Michael gave a half-hearted shrug then looked at Percy. “You should tell her.”

Percy frowned at Michael. Looking at the dragon, I waited. “Passing the buck? Nice! Why me? Why am I always the one that as to give her the bad news . . .?”

Slamming my hand down on the table, I heard the wood split as I growled. “Somebody had better talk soon, or I’m really going to lose my temper.”

Glancing between the two of them as they stared at each other, I heard the fae swear. “Oh, the mother above save us from humans and dragons. What they don’t want to tell you, Ruby Red, is that you may be the new pack alpha for this area.”

My mouth popped open in surprise as I stared at the fae, a nervous little laugh escaping my lips. Had that damn rabbit food finally messed up her mind? “Me? The alpha? Right. Okay, so what’s the punch line?”

The fae’s blank mask switched to anger as her hair took on a fiery hue of red. “I do not joke, Ruby Red, on something this important.” I caught Percy out of the corner of my eye getting up from the table and moving out of the room.

Turning away from Shane and looking back over at Michael and the dragon, I growled. “Hold it, lizard breath. What exactly is going on here, boys?” Anger seeping from my voice stopped the dragon in his tracks and caused the human to slide his chair back a few inches from the table.

“Um . . . well . . . you see toots . . . I mean Ruby . . . “ the dragon stammered as he moved from one foot to the other looking as though he wanted to bolt from the room.

Michael glanced over at the dragon then back at me before finally answering my question. “According to the pack law, the wolf that kills the alpha is the one that takes over the top spot. And well, since you are the one that killed your father in a fight, by their law you are the true alpha in this area.”

Taking this in and glancing at the worried expressions that each of them wore, I very quietly snarled, “How long did you guys know this?”

“Three months,” Shane and Michael echoed.

“Just found out,” Percy said which brought a loud snort of protest from the other two. “Okay, okay, I’ve known for three months too. There. You satisfied?” the dragon said shooting dirty looks at the other two as he mumbled under his breath, “Tattletales.”

Nodding and looking at the three, my anger moved up a notch as they all had known about this little problem and hadn’t seen fit to tell me about it, as usual. “And you were going to tell me about this when?”

“There was no reason to tell you, Ruby Red, since we weren’t even sure that this would come up. Especially since it seemed that your father’s wife had secured the alpha’s spot for herself,” the fae said as she got up and started to clear off the table.

I could sort of see the fae’s point, but I was still a little peeved that they still treated me like a child. Why were they always protecting me and holding things back? “Sooo when are we supposed to meet with this council rep,” I asked calmly.

“Tonight, Ruby,” Michael said as he glided back toward the table figuring that I had cooled off.

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