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6 mos ago
Current Anyone else ever get jealous of their character's weapon(s)?
4 likes
6 mos ago
When you spend hours upon hours hunting for the perfect--or at least near perfect--character picture online, then stumble on one that works... already saved in your folders.
12 likes
8 mos ago
When you're writing a dark, brutal scene, and your playlist throws in an Irish jig.
9 likes
10 mos ago
Writing is creating both images and music simultaneously. Tangible, yet not. Good writing must flow, must sing. But above all, it must make us feel.
6 likes
12 mos ago
Sleep schedule? What sleep schedule?
8 likes

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Arla’s brows rose slightly in amusement at Rayth’s slight proud smile. She blinked slowly at his response of “That’s right,” unsure which of her last statements or questions it was intended for. With a mental shrug, she decided it was a sum to all of it. She opened her mouth to ask another question, but she caught his gaze flick toward her neck.
She inhaled, muscles tensing. She moved her hand from propping herself up to rest closer to her hunting knife, ready to draw it. But he didn’t make a move toward her before he continued speaking. She met his gaze, holding it until he looked away to let his hair down. Her eyes followed his hand as he pulled the tie from his hair. He was on the handsome side, she’d give him that.
Scowling, she shook her head at the ill-timed thought, and glanced away. Holding her breath, her eyes narrowed as she mulled over his words.
At least he was being honest, then. Or at least, she felt like he was being honest. Sincere. While she wouldn’t say she was the best judge of character, she was at least usually good enough to get by. Though time would tell, she had the feeling she wouldn’t have to worry about being killed in her sleep. For tonight, at least.
At last, she released her breath. She slid her hand back from her knife to again help support her sitting position. She raised her chin as Rayth continued, assuring her that the cirque was exactly what she’d hoped it was.
Arla snorted a laugh somewhere between amused and disbelieving at his last words, unsure if he’d meant it as a joke or not.
“Knife thrower and a comedian?” she began, raising her brows at him. “No wonder they accepted you in.” She exhaled heavily and shook her head, glancing away. “I’m not going anywhere ‘just because of you.’ Wouldn’t be here now if that was the case, would I?”
She felt the truth of her decision settle fully in her as the words left her mouth, as if all it needed was to be said to be written in stone. This would be the start of the adventure she’d wanted, one way or another. Vampire or no vampire.
“Besides.” She looked back to him. The corner of her lips quirked upward as she donned a cocky expression. “I can’t knowingly let a giant mosquito go parading around a circus mostly unchecked, now, can I?”
Elyra heaved a sigh when Ghent moved away. She didn’t want to look at him. To deal with him. She scowled as a thought that meant she had to interact with him struck her.
“Just don’t…” She glanced up to Ghent just in time to see him duck behind one of the trees of the woods. She let out an exasperated groan and gripped the bridge of her nose. “Go into the woods,” she finished her statement in a grumble.
She glanced to his weapon still laying discarded on the ground. He'd gone off without his weapon.
“Whatever,” she grumbled to herself. If he was going to be stupid about it, he deserved to be eaten.
But he doesn’t know any better. The annoying reminder snuck into her mind unbidden. Her lips puled down, loathing the truth of the words. It was evident enough in what she'd experienced that he’d lived a life far different from hers.
A life filled with safety and family.
She let out a groaning growl, and shook her head. It didn’t matter. He was [i]here[i] now. He needed to adapt, or die.
Still, she kept an ear open for any sign of trouble. The last thing she wanted was to lose him. And, though she wouldn't admit it aloud, she now had a score to settle, a debt to repay. He had, after all, saved her life.
Walking on her knees to the first aid kit, she grabbed her saber and placed it beside her. Ready for action at the slightest disturbance, she cast frequent glances to the tree Ghent had vanished behind.
Elayra reached up to her neck to check if the bleeding had stopped on its own. Pulling away, she scowled at the light splash of red tinting her fingertips. The river had also prevented the thornbites from clotting. Which meant she still had some work to do before Drust returned.
Drust. She looked again to the trees, this time to roughly the last place she’d seen their guardian. Judging by the slight shift in the shadows’ angle, she guessed his half hour mark had passed.
She shook her head and took a breath. He’s fine, she tried to reassure herself. She couldn't stand when he was late, good excuse or not. And it might not have been half an hour yet.
Wanting to focus on something else, she reached for the first aid box, opened it, and removed the wad of bandages. She pulled the stiletto from the ground and wiped the blade off on the bottom of her dress-like shirt. She cut off a portion of the bandages, dampened the cloth with the moondrop milk, then carefully dabbed at the wounds encircling her neck. She felt the gentle, not-quite-stinging tingle of it beginning to work.
As she finished, she looked back to Ghent’s tree, frowning. It shouldn’t be taking him this long to change.
Collecting her sword, she stood. “Everything okay?” she called, cautiously stepping toward his trees. She caught the faint mutter of his voice, but not his words. Her eyes narrowed.
Glad you got your to-do list under control, though! Always nice to not have to stress over things too much.

No worries! But thanks for the heads-up. You're better at remembering to give those than I am. :-/ I apologize myself: I ended up going on a last-minute trip. I'll get to an IC reply as soon as I can! I understand that to some extent, about being overwhelmed despite apparently being on track. You're so close to finishing! It's wonderful that you've gotten this far. Major respect to you for going all the way, and best of luck with that final stretch!
Though the shadows didn’t quite understand what a “park” was in word, they knew in thought and theory. It was a place of fun, and of training. A place that reeked of fizzy joy, tangy adrenaline, and the rich, almost peppery anger of screaming children forced to leave before they desired. The shadows here didn’t fully comprehend the emotions, but Kyair knew them all well. Each of their delectable flavors, every one as different in taste and smell one from another as fruit to a human.
Though, he had to admit, he almost couldn’t choose whether he liked the taste of the humans’ emotion or food more.
The pools of darkness whispered to him, drowning out the distant, muddled echoes of the day beyond the in-between place. Guiding him. Keeping tabs on the two he’d seen—or almost seen. Though they’d refused to show him the other girl, they at least kept track of her for him now.
Kyair stopped at the side of a plain, two-story home. An unwarded home. Pompous fools. No doubt, they thought they were deep enough in their little “safe” community that they didn’t have to worry about invasion. To them, there were no monsters here.
Even when they were the ones more worthy of the title than the beings they hunted.
Kyair smirked. If only his intended victims had been that foolish.
He let his shadowy, wispy form solidify in the darkness. Even against the rest of the shadows, his body stood out as black as night amidst the Inbetween. A shadow to rule them all.
In the world of humans, the shadow beside the house seemed to quiver, then darken. But only the deserted side street bore witness to the nearly imperceptible, human-shaped mass hiding within. The gurgled, hollow echo of a lawnmower ricochet through the air, adding to the faint background noise of the otherwise quiet.
He took a deep breath, letting the chilled air of the Inbetween seep through him. Letting it cool the uncomfortable warmth from the stretches of light that had tried to infect him in his travels.
He scowled out at the blurry world of light in front of him, as if the expression alone could frighten the sun to submit to its gentler sister sooner. But its discomfort would be worth it. He’d make it worth it.
The park was near, that much he was certain. He had beaten the girls here. Alas, from what his shadows told him, the mystery girl was delaying them. Taking a ride on a motorcycle. Wretched hunter.
He sighed heavily, taking the moment of dull inactivity to mull over the situation.
Two of his four targeted families were out on assignment, that much he’d gleaned in the night. Their houses stood vacant, the darkness left to play at its leisure through their homesteads. But the Gennings girl and Prescotts remained. Even the Prescotts had a child, from what the not-quite-words of the whispering Inbetween told him. And if anything would call the Gennings couple back, it would be the disappearance of their daughter.
And what better way to get revenge? Blood for blood. Family for family. He’d take his time, though. Oh, yes. He’d enjoy feasting on their pain.
A sadistic smile quirked at his lips, twisting at the the black mass of his face. Whoever had stated “Revenge is sweet,” must have been a noxtren. More, though, their suffering would ensure their families knew their children died for the sins of their parents. For the innocent lives they’d ripped away from him.
The innocent for the innocent.
If you could call the spawn of hunters “innocents.” As a plus, their death would mean there would be two fewer hunters in the world.
He sighed and leaned his back against the shadow of the house. The murk of the light world turned the solid, crisp edges of its silhouette into a smoky afterimage of itself where the sunlight touched it. There, but intangible to him in this existence between the human world and Nocreum. The unguarded walls stood out from the warded homesteads of other hunters nearby, a faint colored aura shimmering over their forms, distorted where they bathed in the daylight.
He tapped his foot impatiently. If they didn’t get here soon, he may just have to risk another trip jumping shadows.


Ava frowned theatrically at Jason’s comment about keeping his cat company. “Don’t worry, Hanna!” she called in the general direction the cat had stalked off in. “I’m sure he wasn’t calling you a werewolf!”
Ava eyed Lydia at the other girl’s refusal. Ava looked at her thoughtfully, trying to figure out if the answer was for her sake, or Lydia’s. She raised her brows, then gave a small, encouraging smile. She jerked her head toward Jason and his bike. She nodded almost smugly when Lydia finally accepted the offer.
If her friend was going to figure out how Jason really was, it’d have to be for herself. And the sooner, the better.
Catching as Jason’s expression changed like a kicked puppy offered a steak, Ava rolled her eyes. Can he get any more ridiculous?
Ava swiftly took the bag her friend handed her to look out for. She smiled at the promise of keeping everything in it if Lydia didn’t come back.
“Sure.” She slung the bag over her shoulder. “But if you have any snacks in there, I can’t guarantee they'll still be there even if you do get back!” A sly smile spread further over her orange-painted lips at Lydia’s last promise. “You know you’ll probably regret that, right?”
As soon as Lydia was situated on the motorcycle behind Jason, Ava stepped fully outside the garage. And not a moment too soon. With the garage around it to amplify the engine, it rumbled to life with the volume of a herd of trumpeting elephants.
Ava barely heard Jason’s shout to her. She rolled her eyes, her whole head accentuating the action, but she was sure he didn’t see it; the motorcycle rolled from the garage like a living thing, narrowly missing her.
She cupped her hands around her mouth, trying to amplify her voice. “Remember, no kissing on the first date, Lids!” she called after them, unsure if they would hear over the engine.
She watched for a moment as the bike sped down the road. Adjusting Lydia’s bag, she stepped over to the mailbox. She eyed it, trying to figure out how best to set it right.
She tried simply to straighten it, but it tilted right back over as if wilting in the summer heat. She sat Lyida’s pack on the ground and tried a couple more times, even kicking some earth and rocks at its base, but what damage Jason had dealt it wouldn’t be so easily undone.
With a shrug, she gave up, reshouldered Lydia’s bag, then sat on the small sliver of grass between sidewalk and street. She wouldn’t put it past Jason to take longer just to spite her.
She picked at a peeling rose mixed in with the fake tattooed flowers raining down her arm, then moved to take her phone from her pocket.
She looked up as a convertible Chevy Camaro rolled down the street, its top open. Her shoulders slumped and she looked toward the sky in dismay as she recognized the driver. The navy car slowed as it neared her, then parked at the curb a couple yards from the mailbox.
“Good morning, Ms. Gennings!” Matthew Sallow called as he opened his door. “Or is it afternoon now?” Half in and half out his car, he checked his watch. He sighed heavily, frowning at it as if it was its fault for making time pass. “Afternoon, then.”
Ava forced a smile in greeting to the community overseer. “Good afternoon, sir!” She felt almost proud at how convincing the lightness in her voice sounded.
A man in his late thirties, Matthew took a moment to smooth out his short, curly blond hair. He opened the door and stepped out. He retrieved a tan business suit jacket matching his pants from the back seat and tossed it over his shoulder, holding on to it by the collar.
Ava couldn’t help but think he looked more like a rugged, clean-shaven politician than a hunter.
“Your tie’s crooked.” Ava nodded toward the black tie standing out against his white, long-sleeved undershirt.
He glanced down and scowled at it. With a sigh, he slung his jacket over the car door, then worked on straightening his tie.
Ava struggled to hide a grin.
“Are the Bennetts in?” Matthew retrieved his jacket, brushed a speck of dirt off its front, then draped it over his arm.
Ava shrugged. If Jason had said, she hadn’t been paying attention. “Jason just left, but he and Lydia should be back soon. No clue about his parents.”
“Lydia Prescott?” His eyes lit in surprise.
Ava’s brows rose. “Know any other Lydias around here, sir?”
“No, I suppose not.” Matthew paused, his gaze turning thoughtful. “They spend time together often, do they? The Bennett boy and Lydia?”
“No. But I’m sure Lidd—Lids,” she corrected her nickname, “is hoping that’ll change.” For now, anyway. “Should I tell her to say hi to her parents from you?”
He pulled himself from his thoughts, his gaze returning fully to Ava. “No, no.” He waved his free hand in a lazy dismissal. “Their homestead’s my next stop once I’ve concluded my business here.” He turned, retrieved a brown briefcase from the front seat, then strode down the sidewalk. The sunlight shone dully off his slightly scuffed shoes.
“About a hunt?” Despite Ava’s dislike of hunting, even her interest was piqued. In this era, where missions were delivered in the span of a phone call and email, a personal visit from an overseer to deliver one was rare. Especially to a lower-ranking family like Jason Bennett’s.
He glanced over his shoulder with a grim smile. “Yes, Ms. Gennings. A hunt.”
“It’s Ava.”
In Lion’s Ridge, you didn’t question an overseer. But Ava scrambled to her feet and trod after him. She held her hands loosely behind her back, Jason and Lydia’s adventure momentarily forgotten.
“What kind of hunt?” she asked, falling in slow stride with him in the driveway. “Something in town? Or something big elsewhere? Must be big, if you’re recruiting both the Bennetts and the Prescotts! Though, I don’t get why’d you need the Bennetts with the—”
“Ava,” Matthew let out an annoyed sigh as he stopped. He turned and looked down at her, standing about half a foot taller than her. “I’m afraid I can’t discuss the specifics with any not listed for the cases in question. But they aren’t linked. My business with both are separate matters. Matters which,” he raised his hand with the briefcase, checking his watch again, “I’m already behind on. So, if you’d excuse me, Ms. Gennings.”
“Ugh,” she threw her head back in exasperation.
This Society and their stupid secrets. It wasn’t like the Bennetts and Prescotts weren’t going to brag about it, anyway. All it took was a couple beers and a hand of poker, and the whole community would be in on the secret while pretending they weren’t. Rumor had it, overseers knew everything that went on in their community, so she’d think he’d know that, newbie overseer or not. That he'd actually showed up on their doorsteps would be rumor fodder enough for the innumerable nosy neighbors already peeking through their windows.
Fine,” she finished through a heaving sigh as she turned and slumped back to the curb. She glanced back as Matthew sat his briefcase down at the doorstep and rang the doorbell.
Ava leaned forward and rested her chin in her hand. Trying to keep her curiosity from running wild and forget about this newest hush-hush hunt, she could only wait for Lydia to return.
Without waiting for Ghent's response, Elayra plunged her arm back into the bag. Her movements were jerky, heated, as she tried to recall what Drust’s spare daggers looked like to call one to her from the pack’s depths. She thought he had a stiletto, but she wasn’t entirely sure if it had been his, or borrowed.
Her search and thoughts stopped at Ghent’s complaints. A Drust-worthy sneer curled over her lips as she glowered up at him.
“Would you rather just stand around in your damp underwear?” she snapped. “They need to dry. We can’t leave them behind, but they’ll make everything else in your pack wet.” Her hand closed in a fist inside Drust’s bag. Instead of grasping air, she recognized the shape of a hilt against her palm. “So shut up,” she pulled it out and pointed the sheathed tip of the dagger she'd found threateningly at Ghent, “and figure it out.”
She slapped the top flap of Drust’s bag shut. She looked to the stiletto dagger as she slid the blade from its thin metal and leather scabbard, examining it with a critical eye.
It was nice enough, she supposed. The silvery metal turned the hilt into a spiral, ending in a small, elegant round pummel. Its blade’s length matched what she’d grown accustomed to, only significantly thinner. Its edges glinted in the sunlight, sharp enough for use, but, in Elayra’s eye, it was due for a date with a whetstone.
She tested its weight in her hand. Even with its entire metal construction, it felt lighter than her lost weapon. It felt… wrong. Like she was betraying her other dagger. Betraying the trust of who it once belonged to. More importantly, betrayed Drust by losing it.
Her lips tightened and she gripped the hilt and scabbard harder. It shouldn’t matter this much to her. Not like this, at any rate. And yet, it did.
Until the moment Ghent had confirmed the news, Elayra hadn’t realized exactly how much she cared where the dagger had come from. Or, perhaps, it was the when. A right of passage of knowing Drust trusted her enough to pass on such a fine, meaningful weapon to her. It felt as if she'd lost some small part of herself.
With a growling huff at her unwanted emotions, she threw the stiletto toward the first-aid box. The force embedded over half its blade into the earth an inch from the box. Right where she’d aimed. At least its balance was decent enough for throwing.
Elayra shivered as the chilled water rose up to her mid-chest. She waded through the stream to start her search closer to where she and Ghent had surfaced. She took a few more deep breaths, preparing her body for another plunge into the airless world beneath her, then dove down into the gently rushing current.
Still already chilled from her first plunge, the water wasn’t as bad as she’d expected. She forced herself to sink to the bottom, her natural buoyancy making it difficult for her to remain at the river bed. She kept her eyes open, searching for any hint of blue among the blurry murky brown.
She stayed under as long as she could, running her hand over the mud and sand. She held onto anything that felt or looked even remotely like her dagger, or like it could be of any other value to them.
When her chest warned her she needed to head for the surface, she planted her feet beneath her and stood. Sucking in a deep breath, she frowned at the haul of her first attempt. Nothing but a couple broken sticks that had lodged themselves into the mud. Tossing them to the bank furiously, she dove back under.
She lost count of how many times she went down. Small fish occasionally attacked her, but, without teeth, they couldn't do much, even in larger schools. Despite their minor distraction, she picked through the earth carefully, thoroughly. She found many large, loose rocks as she went, rocks she suspected were the evidence of the death that had occurred beneath the surface.
Her heart sank every time she came up empty. Only garbage of lost cities and nature's detritus found its way to her to be unearthed. Her anger grew along with her pile of useless litter.
By the time she’d reached at least a yard beyond the ruins of the bridge, her lungs were spent. Her chest ached from holding her breath for so long so often. Her eyes stung, though she'd given up keeping them open under the water after the first few dives.
With an angered growl, she tossed her most recent find—the backing of a hand mirror, its metal tarnished and covered in gooey weeds and mirror missing—onto the bank. It was useless. And not just the mirror. Despite the weight of her dagger, somehow, it had floated down the stream beyond her reach. The terraflame had frantically stirred the water; she supposed the vines of its tongue could have caught the weapon, dragging it down the agitated current.
Cracked bottles. Rusted cans. The rotting remains of a couple clothing items too decayed to identify. Sticks. Broken hilts. It all created an uneven trail down the riverbank to where Elayra puled herself out of the water.
Face twisted in a frustrated, angered snarl, she trudged back toward Ghent and their things. Some part of her knew it was unfair to blame him. But she hadn't been the one to lose it. He hadn't needed both his hands to get to the surface. But still, the featherhead had dropped it to the mercy of the river, like it was nothing more than a disposable butter knife.
She kicked her finds back into the water as she went, eliminating the evidence of her presence. A few of the bottles shattered from the force, returning to the stream in a glittering rain of shards. The first can made a loud tang that made her flinch. She glanced around, making sure it hadn't aroused any unwanted attention, then made it a point to roll the other couple cans softly back into the water. As minor as it was, she enjoyed the small outlet for her frustration.
She took a few slow breaths, trying to calm herself, to keep her fury at bay. Though she suspected the terraflames were an isolated incident, she needed to keep herself in check.
Socks squelching in her boots, she ignored Ghent as she stopped beside Drust’s pack. She kicked off her ruined shoes, knelt on the grass, then reached inside the Knight’s bag. She paused, finally looking to Ghent. Her scowl deepened as she took him in, gauging how much his clothes had dried. At least it looked like he'd taken care of his wounds as she'd ordered.
“Your clothes need to dry,” she grumbled. She pulled a pair of trousers from the pack. Their ends were crudely tailored to better suit Drust’s height, the fabric worn and rough. “Take yours off and put them in the sun.” She tossed the pair of pants to him with more force than necessary. “Drust should be back soon, but use these for now.”
What bit of camaraderie that had come over Elayra vanished instantly at Ghent’s expression to her request. Her gaze darkened as he put on a show of searching for the dagger.
If he lost it, I swear— Ghent cut off her thought with the confirmation of exactly that.
“You dropped it?!” Anger rose in her chest, drowning out the hint of geniality—or at least as close to it as she’d come in years—from only a moment ago. His simple, uncaring shrug and the ego-wrenching reminder of her near-death experience only stoked the hot emotion.
She stood quickly, glaring at Ghent.
“What? Don’t you have another one you can use?”
She ground her teeth, fists clenching at her sides. She tore her gaze from him and looked to the stream, staring as if her will alone could call the dagger back to her. But, of course, it couldn’t. What bit of magic it held wouldn't bring it back to her. Sure, Drust had a couple extras in his bag she was sure he wouldn’t mind her using to replace it. But none of those meant anything to her. They were nothing but spoils of war. Easily traded or replaced. What value the lost weapon had to her didn’t reside in having a monetary value among Omitten, but in where it had come from.
“You idiotic—” She cut herself off with a hasty glance to the trees.
She looked to the ground with a huff, scrunching her eyes shut. She took a deep breath, trying fruitlessly to calm herself. The female terraflame may not return, but there was no guarantee others weren’t close enough to sense the presence of one of its favorite meals.
Hands still fisted at her sides, she strode to where she’d dropped her sword in the fight. Retrieving it, she kept its tip lowered as she returned to Ghent. If she wanted to find her dagger, she couldn’t waste time rummaging for another in Drust’s bag. She tossed the double-edged saber to the ground near Ghent's feet without meeting his gaze. The blue blade glinted in the light as it landed with a dull thud, a couple pieces of grass succumbing to its sharpness.
“Use that to cut a swath of the bandage,” she ordered bitterly through her teeth. “If you think you can manage to not lose it, anyway,” she added with a sneer. “Get the cloth damp with the moondrop milk. Dab it on your wounds.” She stepped around their stuff and headed toward the stream. “It's a disinfectant, and will speed up healing enough to clot the bleeding.”
She hesitated near the edge of the water. Nerves made her stomach churn at the thought of going back under there. Of willingly giving herself to the element that had nearly stolen her last breath.
Her fists tightened, her anger turning instead toward the water and herself. She would not let it frighten her. It was just water, after all. And this time, she’d be entering it on her own terms.
Taking a deep breath, she took the last couple steps to the gently burbling stream.
Eli’s eyes narrowed in the short silence that fell as William collected his response. The tapping of the agent’s finger quickened impatiently, a short, nearly imperceptible pause every third tap. When the other man finally responded, Eli’s perpetual scowl deepened at William’s repeated name request.
Taya glanced to William and cleared her throat, trying to indicate for him to answer the more pressing matter. Though she’d learned to deal with her partner’s personality quirks—and couldn’t help but enjoy, to at least some extent, how much William’s presence seemed to agitate Eli—she’d rather spare William from dealing with more of Archer’s attitude than necessary.
Eli snorted at William's vague answer to his question.
Taya opened her mouth to kindly voice the unspoken request for elaboration from William, when the supposed werewolf raised a hand, cutting her off.
Eli’s icy blue gaze flicked toward the door, following William’s nearly immediately. His tapping paused. His head bent forward slightly in suspicion. Taya swore she saw his gloved hand twitch for the gun hidden beneath his jacket at his belt.
“Is everything—?” Before Taya could finish her question, the door opened, drawing her attention. Her brows raised as Lucy entered with their drinks balanced on a small tray. She looked to William, intrigued curiosity glittering in her eyes.
Taya gave a distracted smile in thanks to Lucy as the waitress placed her drink in front of her. The agent glanced subtly toward the door, trying to figure out if William’s prediction was a trick of observation or a show of the supposed super hearing rumored to be possessed by werewolves.
“Privacy,” Eli snapped in answer to the waitress. “If we need something before their orders arrive, we’ll find you.” He waved dismissively at Lucy, shooing her toward the door.
Taya glared at him, but he ignored it as blatantly as he did the waitress’ indignant expression.
“Sorry, Luce,” she offered, giving the other girl an apologetic smile. “Don’t mind him. I’m still working on his people skills.” She knew it was unprofessional, but the indubitable reprimand that awaited her for it would be worth it. Business or not, there was no reason to be rude to servers.
Lucey gave her an uneasy smile.
Excuse me?” Eli growled, looking to Taya. His glower only confirmed she’d be getting an earful the moment they were alone.
It was Taya’s turn to ignore him. “This is more than enough,” she tapped the top of her glass, “thanks! Like he said, though, it’d be great if we could get a bit of extra privacy once our food’s done,” she reiterated, as if giving an example of the polite version of Eli’s demand would help it sink in.
Taya watched Lucy leave. She stared after her for a moment, taking note of the slight shadow just visible beneath the door as the waitress walked away. A hint of disappointment dusted over her. So that must have been how he’d known Lucy was coming. Of course.
Her attention shifted back to William as he sighed. His demeanor had completely shifted, as if the weight of the case they’d met to investigate had finally settled on his shoulders. He looked genuinely troubled.
Taya took the moment to unwrap her straw and put it in her own glass. Eli pulled off his right black leather glove, revealing a jagged scar in a rough X on top of it. Using his freed fingers, he pinched the tab of the teabag steeping in his mug. He bobbed it around in the steaming water, finally putting a small effort in hiding his impatience at the wait for a full answer from William.
When, at last, William elaborated on his vague response, Eli gave a grunt in confirmation. Taya nodded solemnly. The weight of that number alone made her heart sink. And was yet another reason the bureau had grown more than willing to ‘help bridge the gap between human and the rumored werewolf’ on this case. Any little bit helped. Even if it meant using crazy to find crazy.
“Eighteen as of today,” Taya corrected dismally.
“Anthony Cormack was found similarly mutilated in an alley behind his office building,” Eli picked up for her. “The janitor discovered him around five this morning while taking trash out. The coroner’s estimated his time of death to be around three a.m., but the recent temperatures make it difficult to be certain.”
Eli slid the folder across the table to William. A folder housing a detailed summery of each homicide and potential related kidnapping.
“It’s believed he tried to fight back; forensics found some hair trapped under his fingernails,” Eli continued, sitting back in his chair. “They’re testing it as we speak.” He lifted the dripping teabag from the mug and placed it at the edge of the plate beneath the cup. “A detail about each murder that’s been kept from the public is each victim’s heart was missing. I suspect they were taken as a trophy, or as proof of the kill.”
Taya suppressed a shudder at how impassively Eli spoke about the man’s death. No remorse. No obvious compassion. It simply was to him, just another case, another body, another murderer to get off the street. She knew he’d taken on a record amount of cases, but to grow so calloused to it that it became something as casually discussed as the day’s weather was unimaginable to her.
“Or to further prove a point,” Taya added, disgustedly. “It’s a part of certain werewolf lore. Which is where you come in, William. If they’re trying to mimic a werewolf attack—or if it is werewolves doing this,” she added awkwardly, gaining a snort from Eli, “then you’re more qualified to make that call.”
Ha! Well, I should hope you find him adorable! A mom's supposed to be biased.

I currently have a friend in town, but will get to work on a reply a.s.a.p.! She's a writer/roleplayer, too, so writing time isn't out of the picture during her visit. :-)
[Internet hiccup double post. See above.]
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