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Forever Moonlight
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Wolf biologist Sera Tibbs is attractive, smart, and respected in her
field. She is also dying. When she decides to relocate to Lake Tahoe to
complete her research she never dreamt she would encounter her soul mate
in the midst of taking her last breathe.
 
Rescued by a 6’4 virgin shifter who swears he is her fated lover he promises to save her from the illness ravishing her body.
 
Impotent and colorblind, Lykian born werewolf, Justus Apollon has been tracking a
serial killer for two centuries. In love, Justus discovers a world of
colors and passion, only to leave himself vulnerable to his enemy.

Will Sera choose immortality with Justus only to risk dying in the vengeful
hands of his adversary once known as, Jack the Ripper?
Forever Moonlight

CHAPTER ONE

PROLOGUE
 
 
 
London, England
 August 1888
Whitechapel District
 
            “Go t’ hell, you bleedin’ cocks hound!”
            “Hell is where ya be headin’ if you don’t get yerself away from my establishment, Polly.”  The burly proprietor of the public house raised a meaty fist at the dismally dressed woman.
His dark, beady eyes gave Polly a quick once over.  He felt repelled by what he regarded as to what was left of the woman.  There was a time he thought Polly could have been considered pretty, yet now as his good eye took in her petite stocky frame, he found it near impossible to even decipher her age.  She was wearing the hardships of her life, as a drunken doxy of the Whitechapel district, in every pockmark that scarred her mottled face.  
He also couldn’t dismiss the fact that she smelled like something he had fished out of the Thames.  Could it be because she wore the same filthy rags, consisting of a simple black straw bonnet, resting upon greasy brown hair and a tattered brown overcoat, with brass buttons fastened up to her double chin? 
At least the coat was hiding most of the piss and vomit-stained brown frock she wore beneath.   He shook his head as he finished his observation at the mud-splattered black woolen stockings and well-worn men’s boots. 
How could a man not want to help such a wretched soul?  Nevertheless, he couldn't run a business off pity.  Polly and the other prostitutes had previously left him holding their outstanding commitment vouchers and he wasn't budging.
“Come, come, Percy.  How's about generously offerin’ a lady another nip?  Just t’ knock the chill off me frail bones is all I be needin’,” Polly slurred. Her dark eyes watered as she licked her cracked lips.  She gazed at the rows of bottles behind the bar.
“If ya eye a lady walkin’ in here Polly, I would gladly pour her a snippet, but you have already had more than your fair share of spirits out of the likes of me.”  He cleaned a glass and set it aside, reaching for another.  “Go on now woman…go and sleep it off.”
“I don’t have nowhere t’ go.”  Polly whined.  “Would you be havin’ a bed for me t’ use or I can rest me eyes on the kitchen floor out back?  I promise t’ repay you on the morrow.”
“Ya pulled this on me afore, Polly, and I never received reparation.  So either ya pay up or get out.”
Polly sighed, knowing what he said was true.  She spread her thighs for several men and managed to gain nine pence.  Instead of acquiring a hot meal and a place to lay her head, she spent it on alcohol.  Once again, she swore to herself never would she do something so foolish.  She would go out and get more money and this time she would do the right thing.
“I will be back before the sun comes up.  Please save a bed for me.  I promised t’ have your funds,” Polly whispered before staggering from the alehouse.
The night was heavy with its shroud of darkness.  In between blinding showers and steady drizzle, only the occasional thunder and lightning brightened the otherwise starless night. 
Polly's boots pattered over the wet and blackened cobblestone walkway.  She gathered what remained of her kerchief and placed it over her nose to keep from breathing in the soot and rancid smell of lingering smoke from the earlier Shadwell Dry Dock fire. 
She knew she could find men in that area easily, but she couldn’t risk the Bow Runners that remained in the area investigating the fire.  As the occasional thunder sounded in the eerie silence, Polly jumped wondering why she felt so skittish tonight.
 She had walked these streets hundreds of nights before, but for some reason it didn't feel the same tonight.  She shrugged off the sensation, pulled the collar of her coat closer to her face and hastened her gait down Bucks’ Row, passing several poorly maintained two-story houses.
Suddenly she was captured from behind.  Polly struggled and tried to see who it was but she was being held firmly with one hand clamped over her mouth and another wrapped around her waist from behind.  Lifting her off the ground, the perpetrator proceeded to edge backwards between two of the houses.  Her eyes darted this way and that but no one was out at this late hour.  She writhed and thrashed to no advantage.  Her assailant was too strong.
Polly flailed, as helpless as a rag doll, against her captor’s brutish strength as terror seized her in its grip. 
Was this truly happening?  Would he let her go if she stopped fighting and allowed him a free tumble betwixt her thighs?
She received the answers to her questions when she felt the sharp, intense pain across her neck.  Polly welcomed the numbness that quickly followed.  Peace…blessed peace was her final thought.
Throes of madness continued to seize the beast.  By the time the blood lust decreased, Polly’s entrails were resting upon what was left of her breasts.
 
***
The sun emerged on another day, clearing off the night's mist.  Cobbled-row caretakers extinguished burning lanterns.  The dockside shopkeepers swept off their stoops.  A group of fishermen preparing their boats to set sail shook their heads with woe as the lone newspaper boy ambled past, yelling the current headline from the London Gazette.
“Get your paper!  Get your paper!  Jack the Ripper strikes again!”
“Here lad, I will take one of those.”  Justus appeared from the shadows of an alehouse doorway.  He threw the boy a few coins as he perused the headlines, noting the location of the last murder.
“I was at this location the night before last.”  He wondered if he was still shadowing Lucus or was Lucus shadowing him?  “Damn you, Lucus, I must stop you before you kill again.”
He heard Lucus’s diabolical laughter ringing in his ear. “Try…try…and try again if you dare, Justus; however, you shall always be too late.”
 
Chapter 1
 
Present Day
Huntsville, Alabama
 
            “Sera, I’m sorry.  I had hoped I was wrong.  However, the biopsy of the tumor has been examined twice by two different specialists and the results are the same.”
            She sat there blank, amazed and much shaken.  She couldn’t believe the doctor could remain so reserved as if he were telling her what he ate for breakfast. 
            For the third time in fifteen minutes, Sera reached up and touched the scarf covering her buzz-cut head.  Her scarves matched every outfit perfectly.  She had even purchased a book on how to make fashionable ethnic designs.  Today it was the twist and knot on the nape of her neck.
It was strange to think about such things after receiving a death sentence. 
“I am going to die.  Isn’t this where one is supposed to relive the entirety of their life or is it the actual moment of death or maybe it doesn’t happen?” 
 “I will soon find out.  God, I think I am going to be sick.  Please help me get through this with some dignity.”
She took a quick breath of utter astonishment as Doctor Ryan glanced at his watch, as if she was taking up too much of his time.  “Hell, at least you got time, you unconcerned bastard.”
Her lips thinned with irritation.  Her dark eyes showed the tortured dullness of disbelief.
“There will be no husband or children in my future.  Oh God…oh God, how am I going to get through this?  Why have you forsaken me?  I‘m only twenty-six years old.  I’ve got so much to do.  So much I haven’t done.  I thought I had a lifetime.  Damn it, are you listening?  Can you hear m, now that I am dying?  Now, are you finally listening to me?  So many bad things are happening in this world.  Are you listening to anyone anymore?  Give me a sign that you hear me.  God, please…please, I don’t want to die!
            “Sera?  Dear, I would think you would have some questions.  I am here to help you and make sure you understand-”
            Startled, her eyes glazed with tears that wouldn’t fall.  “I have more than questions.  You know I …I have money…and …I have excellent benefits.  Surely you can refer me to a research center experimenting with special cases.  I’m willing to go abroad.  Anything.”  She couldn’t stop the shrill in her voice. 
            “No Sera, there is nothing.  You better than anyone know traveling can cause an entire new set of complications.  The increased pressure of a flight could cause hemorrhaging, an embolism causing a stroke, memory loss or worse, instant death.  Driving, while taking morphine can-“
             “Oh, hell!  We wouldn’t want that, would we?”  Sera released a sob, her voice filled with sarcasm as she continued, “What are we talking about Dr. Ryan, instant death?  It would be a blessing, don’t you think?  I’m a doctor for chrissake, one of the best in my field.  You know this.”
            The silence grew thick between them and Sera’s breath escaped in a long, low hiss of annoyance.  “Okay, so my current specialty is wildlife, wolves in particular, but I was in the same profession as you are before changing my field of expertise.  So give me the respect I deserve, if not as a medical doctor, then as a family friend.”
            “Sera, it’s not my intention---”
            “Sure it was.  Because it’s easier to shut down your feelings than to deal with the human emotions of diagnosing or giving a death sentence to someone you know!”
            “Calm down, Sera.  It won’t do for you to get upset.”
            “Come on, did you say ‘get upset’?”  Hell, I’m pissed.”  She spread her arms wide and leaned against the large desk.  “So why don’t I be the one to get the bad news out on the table!  Obviously, you’re not in the mood to be a friend or a doctor today.”
            “Sera, I know you are, as you said, ‘pissed’ but you are out of line.”  Dr. James Ryan’s eyes briefly locked on hers before resting on his folded hands.
            She refused to back down.  Sera remembered the many times she’d had this conversation with other patients and their families.  The evening the wife of a deceased patient slapped her and accused her of heartlessness was the day she decided to change her field. 
            From the way this doctor was looking at her right now, she realized for the first time what her patients must have felt and what made the woman angry enough to hit her.
 “James, it’s time for you to look me in the eye and tell me…if I’m lucky, I will die in my sleep from hemorrhaging or clotting.  If I’m unlucky, I’ll lose my mental faculties and control of my bodily functions.  See, was that so hard to say?”  She said sarcastically.  “I know you’ll make sure I’m somewhere where someone can change my diapers and tend to those pesky bedsores that never heal. “
            Pace.  Pace.
“I can also depend on you to do what you think is best for me out of respect to my dead parents.  You will hook me up to tubes, keep me well-hydrated and as comfortable as possible.  That is, until it no longer works and wow, after all that suffering, I just might get lucky enough to have a stroke or organ failure so I can die before fucking starving to death!”
            “Sera stop it right now! “ 
            “What?”  She walked back to the chair and dropped.  “Am I not acting the way your other patients act when you’ve given them no hope?” 
            Her accusing gaze was riveted on him.  Her hands gripped the arms of the chair as she leaned forward. 
            “James, I’m not just a patient, I’m your god-daughter.  You were at the party the day my adoption became final.”  She spoke in an odd yet gentle tone.  Folding her hands in a pose of tranquility, she managed a sad smile.  “And, except for calling me Sera, I could be just another stranger who was referred to you by another doctor.  When I lost Mom and Dad in the accident, I turned to you and your family.  Now, I feel as if you are just giving up on me.”
            “Sera, you won’t have to go through this alone.  You still have the family and me. There are also staff professionals standing by to assist you--“
“I’m only twenty-six.”  Her head bowed.  “I’ve worked so hard to get to this point in my life, where I can finally devote some time to more than working.  You know what?  I hadn’t realized how desperately I wanted children until this moment.” 
“Don’t do this to yourself Sera.”
She twisted her hands together in her lap.  “Two, I think; a boy first, so when I have a second child, he or she would have an older brother to look after them.  I always hoped Mommy and Daddy would adopt me an older brother.”  Her voice cracked and tears fell over the hills of her cheeks.          “But with their wildlife research, they barely had time to visit me while I was away in college.”
Clearing his throat while bracing his elbows on his desk, he linked his hands together in front and he leaned towards her. 
            She stared at him.  He smiled with kind understanding.  For the first time since she entered Doctor James Ryan’s office, she felt she was seeing her “Uncle Jimmy,” the name she called him in less formal surroundings.
“By your opinion, if there are no other problems, how long do I have?”
“You know it is difficult to predict such things.”
“Best-case scenario.”
“Two years.”
“Worse?”
“Six months, if you don’t have a stroke first.”
Sera shook her head.  “Then you know what I‘m going to do and the less you know the better.  I’ll get my affairs in order and I’ll choose when and where I wish to die.”
“Please don’t, Sera.”  His voice cracked with emotions.
“I need you to do me one last favor--.”
“I will not help you get more morphine than I am allowed to prescribe, Sera.”
“I would not ask such a thing of you.  Besides, I have means to get what I need from the animal research clinic.”  She saw the aging lines on his face deepen and felt saddened to have taken her frustrations out on him.  He truly was someone who cared for her; the only thing she had left close to a family.
“I want you to know that you, Martha and the kids have been great friends to me.  Thank you.”  She cleared the lump tightening in her throat and continued.  “This will be our goodbye and I would appreciate you breaking the news to your family.  Just tell them I’m leaving to spend the time I have left in seclusion…don’t tell-”
“No…no, of course not,” he bobbed his head, rubbing his temples with his hands.
“However, the favor is I need is for you to give me a letter of my diagnoses and copies of my files and such.  I will be sending it to the appropriate places along with my final notes on wolves and the environmental injustice against them.  It is important to get this information to my lawyer to delegate my final wishes.”       
            He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his belly.  “Sera, in all good conscience, I can't allow you to do this---”
            “Even if it means it’s the last thing you’ll get to do for me?”
            “That’s not rational.”  His lips compressed in a thin line.  A mottled flush came across his face as he tried to keep back the emotions. 
            “Neither is dying when you have yet to live.”
With a resigned sigh, he removed a pen and prescription pad from his breast pocket and began to scribble a note for his assistant.  “Give this to Meg on your way out.  She will get what you need.  We can messenger anything else you might need once you settle in, if the need arises.”
“Thank you so much…for everything.”  She took the paper from his hand. 
“Sera, it was a pleasure to watch you take your parents’ research to another level, not to mention the memorial wildlife research and development park you opened in their names.  They would have been so proud to see all you’ve accomplished.”
“I would like to think they’ve been watching.  As far as being proud, I’m sure they’ll let me know soon enough.”  She smiled; he didn’t.
“Sera, will you be coming back here…your remains, I mean?”
“No, I’m going to arrange for a cremation.  I would like to have my ashes scattered in Lake Tahoe.  If it was good enough for Mom and Dad, it’s good enough for me.”  She shrugged her shoulders in mock resignation.
            He grunted.  Sera saw it was time for her to go.  He would try to be strong for her sake and as long as she lingered, it would become more awkward for the both of them. 
            “Till we meet again…in the afterlife, Uncle Jim.  That is, if you believe in such a thing.”  Putting her hand in his, she squeezed his hand affectionately.  “I don’t.”
 
***
 
            Within two weeks after Sera’s visit to the doctor’s office, she took one last look at her empty townhouse.  She didn’t feel any sadness about leaving the life she had known.  Why should she?  She spent most of her life traveling for the sake of her work and research and hadn’t had the opportunity to turn her place into a real home. 
 However, Sera would miss her research students.  They had the same drive and dedication to the health and preservation of forestry wildlife that she had.
 With their help, Sera had won awards for her hypotheses, filmed a few wildlife documentaries and written several books on the subject of the environmental science of wolves.  Long after she was gone, her work would be here for others to take up where she had left off.
            After arranging for her lawyer to disburse her monies between several wildlife preserves for continued research, there was nothing left to do but leave the keys for her townhouse to the new owner, Uncle Jim’s eldest son, as a graduation gift.
She was fifteen before she had known what it felt like to be part of a real family.  The foster care she received from her high school biology teacher and her wildlife reservist husband changed her life.  When they adopted her, it was the happiest day of her existence.  Unfortunately for her, the time she had with her parents was to be short-lived. 
When they died in an automobile accident during her junior year of college, she gave up dating and partying altogether.  She changed her electives and instead of becoming a medical doctor, she focused on wildlife, species-wolves in particular, and botany. 
Sera would take her memories of the life she shared with the Tibbs family and their friends to her grave.  At least for a moment, life had been everything she dreamed it could be.
With one large suitcase filled with necessities, a purse heavy with morphine, an envelope containing the doctor’s diagnoses, in case there was a problem, traveler’s checks and a one-way ticket to Lake Tahoe, Sera Tibbs closed the door on what had been her life. 
 
***
 
            Sera’s plane arrived late in Tahoe and fatigue settled in pockets around her eyes.  The rapid pounding of her heartbeat set the pace of the thumping in her head.  The first thing she needed to do was find a ladies’ room so she could splash some cold water on her face.  Next, she would call Tahoe Management Group to make sure they opened and aired out the lakeside rental cabin. 
            Sera felt frazzled and her entire body seemed to be fighting her every movement.  If one more person brushed against her, or bumped into her, she was going to share the contents of her stomach with them.  A few times, she had to stand still and think before she took her next step.  Something was terribly wrong.  Was this one of the symptoms of her illness?
            Sera felt fear rioting from within.  She applied pressure to her temples with the palms of both hands, praying the pain would subside.  She whimpered as voices, footsteps and a baby’s wailing became one big, muffled roar.  It seem to go on and on without any relief in sight. 
She cradled her head with trembling hands with her purse swinging on the bend of her arm.  Her eyes felt like they were on fire as she squinted against the vivid lights of the airport lobby.           
             “Please…not now…not now…” she chanted in a broken whisper. 
 
 
CHAPTER 2
 
            Justus stepped off the plane; his stride purposeful.  The hair on his chest, arms and the back of his neck stood on end.  He was close.  He could feel his journey about to end.  After over a century of tracking Lucus, the time had finally come to rectify his grievous mistake of trusting him in the first place.
            Instinctively, the crowd parted to allow this intimidating figure of a man to walk through.  Being 6’4” tall and over 200 pounds, he was very pleasing on the eyes.  Women stopped and stared with open interest.
Justus never noticed nor cared enough to pursue the obvious invitations.  He was destined to have one mate and until he found her, he didn’t have desires of the flesh.  He was born to hunt the renegades of his pack.  He was a Lamialicos-Bloodwolves, born on the island of Lykia.
            With each sure step that brought him closer to his prey, he became energized.  His pale, concentrated gaze brushed slowly across the crowd, not missing anything.  He opened his tracking senses and dismissed the insignificant things around him.
Justus found humans to be a minor aggravation.  They were such emotional creatures, suffering from loneliness.  It made them easy prey for a predator such as Lucus. 
            Lucus took pleasure in doing the forbidden.  One of the laws stipulated by the council of the Darkworld was that no human creature was to be slain for pleasure or sport.  Lucus contracted a disease of the mind and it was his duty to capture him and because of his own personal interests, he wanted him alive.
There he is, Justus halted.  With eyes locked on his target, he realized Lucus was daring him to make a public attempt at capturing him.  He knew he could not no matter how much he wanted to.  Lucus knew as long as they were amongst the innocents, he wouldn’t transform and attack.  A deep growl escaped Justus’ throat at Lucus’ insolent stare and knowing grin.
“Lucus please give this cat and mouse game up and allow me to help you.”  Justus reached out telepathically.
“No, you’re the one who should give up on the games, Justus.  Haven’t you realized yet that I can’t be contained?  After all these centuries, I’ve evolved into something you can’t begin to understand. If you’d join me, feel the power and freedom of a human kill. . ”
Justus felt the compulsion Lucus sent towards him.  He was right.  His strength had increased over the years and it was becoming harder to resist the urge to join him in his madness.  It’s taboo amongst his kind to kill and consume human flesh.  It’s one of the many laws they lived by as members of the Darkworld.  As the Alpha of his clan, it was his duty to bring Lucus to heel. 
Doing it, and taking Lucus alive was proving to be a difficult task and the other clans were running out of patience.  Lucus was jeopardizing the Darkworld’s secret co-existence with the mortals. 
Unwillingly, Justus gave into Lucus’s bloodlust and the feeling was wonderfully intoxicating.  It was freeing and exhilarating all in one, making him more aware of the blood coursing through the humans’ veins.  He could smell the rawness of their flesh beneath skin and he had the urge to shift. 
“Don’t do this to me, Lucus.”  Justus’s black-clad figure stiffened.  A sheen of sweat appeared on his brow; his eyes glowed with a savage inner fire.  The powerful outline of his shoulders strained against the fabric as apprehension seized his wits, as Lucian compelled him to do his bidding.
“I can feel it; you want this as much as I do.  We are gods amongst these people. They are substance to feed us, just like the flesh of the animals they consume.  They are our cattle, a necessary part of our food chain.  You know together, in our true form, we could obliterate every mortal in here,” Lucus’s voice rasped and coaxed.
 “No, Lucus!  Stop this now!”  A moment before Justus felt all was hopeless, serene calmness seized his inner beast.  His mental and physical bond with Lucus diffused.
“What the hell?”  His voice was full of wonderment and excitement.  With his acute smell, he caught the scent of woman.  This wasn’t just any human female.  This was his match, the one he was destined to someday find.  She was here.  Feverishly, Justus’s eyes searched the crowd around him.  “Where are you?  Who are you?” he whispered.
His classically handsome features opened with the astonishment of a child, as the colorless world around him burst into rippling brilliancy.  The yellowish-brown irises of his eyes nearly disappeared as his pupils dilated like an eclipse over the sun.  Shaggy hair resting on his shoulders became more unruly from the static electricity that emanated from his body.
            Justus reveled in the amazing sensation washing over his body.  He swiveled slowly and took in his surroundings.  His delight grew in leaps and bounds.  For the first time in his life, he could see colors.  There were varieties of colors all around him, picture-perfect surroundings with light and shadows contrasting between every tint imaginable.  Never had he envisioned such beauty.  A lifetime of hearing about such things from his kinsmen, who found their mates and gained these capabilities, came nowhere near the realism of it all.
As a youth, his brother was fortunate to find his mate living amongst their people.  Wistfully, Justus stood by, listening and learning, as their father taught his brother the association of colors; the sky was blue, grass was green, an apple was red, yet wine, with its deeper shade, could be called red, too.  There was so much for him to see and much more to learn and he had to go through it alone.  Even though his father was long since gone, Justus could remember the lessons as if he was standing by his side, pointing out objects and associating the colors.
He cocked his head to the side in question as his gaze fell on a little girl with pigtails holding a balloon that was almost as big as she was.  It looked like a smiley face bear with letters written on its shirt of red.  “P-O-O-H,” he spelled aloud and stepped forward, squatting before the child, with his arms resting on his thighs. 
“Hello little one, might I ask what beautiful color is your balloon?”
The little girl stared at him with round innocent eyes, and then looked up at her balloon.  “That’s Winnie the Pooh and he’s yell-woe.”  She giggled.
He smiled.  “Yellow.” Justus repeated in awe and smiled.  “And your shirt, what color do you call this?” 
Her little cherub face looked down and she pulled her shirt out to look at it.  Her brow puckered in concentration.  She looked up with sparkling blue eyes.  “Pink!” she shouted playfully, as if it were a game.  “Like my hair-wa ribbon,” she preened.
“Pink.”  He mouthed and felt as if he had discovered something miraculous.  Well, it was miraculous to him.  “Pink!  It’s a fitting name for this vibrant color.  Still, I think the one in your beautiful hair is a much softer shade of pink.”  Justus playfully tugged on her hair ribbon.
“More,” she demanded jumping up and down.  The balloon tied to her wrist dipped and bobbed in the air.  “You want to know the cul-luh of my hair-wa?”
“Yes, please.”
“I have wed hair-wa!”
Amazed, Justus fingered a curl.  “This is red, too.  How confusing.  It’s not the shade of an apple or the color of wine.”  He shook his head.  “How is one supposed to know these things if the color is called the same thing no matter what color it is?"
“What color is--“
Justus halted as a woman pushed her stroller and her body in between him and the child.  He immediately released the little girl’s hair from his fingers, aware of the woman’s protective stance over the child.  With a faint smile, he surmised—human or wolf—the female breed was the same when it came to their babes.
 He stepped back and placed an apologetic smile on his lips. 
The woman stared at him warily before turning her attention to her daughter, her deep concern obvious.  “Oh my God, Lizzie!  I’m so glad I tied the balloon to your wrist or I might never have found you.  I told you not to leave my side.”  She pulled her daughter to her chest in a smothering hug until the child started to struggle.  She released her hold, grasped her upper arms and gave her a little shake.
“Remember, you are never…ever…ever…to talk to strangers.”  She came up onto her feet and turned her anger on him.  “How dare you!  What were you doing with my daughter?  I should call airport security.”  The woman bustled forward with one babe in the stroller, her daughter clenching her dress and tugging to get her attention. 
“Mommy, he wanted to know the cul-luh of my shirt.”  The little girl grew animated once more, trying to clue her mother in on the game.  Her mother wasn’t listening.  She was shooting looks of disgust and anger at him.  Justus took two more steps back, his eyes growing wide.
“Look, lady, I didn’t mean any harm to the child.  I-“
“You get away from me and my child if you know what’s best for you,” the mother raged at him before looking back at her daughter.  “Be quiet, Lizzie!  I want you to hold onto the stroller and don’t you dare let go until I tell you or I’ll spank your behind,” the woman yelled at the little girl, whose bottom lip began to tremble earnestly.  Her large eyes filled with tears.
“Don’t take your anger out on the child.  It is your responsibility to hold her at your side.”  Justus scowled and seeing the fear that it brought to the woman’s face, calmed down and ran a hand sheepishly through his hair.  “Please, forgive me.  I didn’t mean to yell at you.  I hadn’t realized the child was lost.  I saw the balloon and thoughtlessly came in this direction,” Justus amended with wide-eyed innocence.  His palms were up and head bowed in a submissive stance.  “I could never harm a child.”
She must have felt his sincerity.  She visibly relaxed with a resigned sigh.  Her eyes locked with his and he didn’t look away.  “I’m sorry too, Mister.  It’s just you read about this stuff happening all the time and I don’t know what I would have done if something had happened to my daughter.”
“Again, I didn’t mean to overstep.”
            “Well, next time Mister, I suggest you immediately contact the service desk when you see a child alone.  You might find yourself in a heap of trouble these days, even if you’re just trying to be helpful.”
            “Understood, but can I ask you a question?” 
            “Uh, I…I guess so.”  She looked at him suspiciously.
            “What color is your shirt?”
            The woman’s mouth dropped open in surprise.
            “I told ya, mommy,” the little girl piped in.
            “Are you kidding, Mister?”
            Justus flushed in embarrassment and decided honesty was always the best approach.  “I…I was born color-blind and recently I have developed the ability to see colors-“
            “Amazing…a grown man like you just now experiencing colors, didn’t know something like that could be corrected.  You must be ecstatic...wow.”  For the first time she smiled at him, tapping him on his arm.  
            “My shirt color is purple.”
            “Purple, it is beautiful.  Your hair is red like your daughter’s,” he added.
            She laughed.  “Not quite like my daughter’s.  Hers is real; mine is from a bottle.”
            “Color created by pouring it from a bottle.”  Justus’s mouth dropped wide. “That is amazing.”
            “Oh well, this has been a lot of fun…” The woman quirked a brow at him and he realized she was being flippant.  “That’s the call for our flight.  You take care.”
            “Thank you for your kindness.”  He smiled at her.  The woman’s head cocked to the side and her eyes took on a vivid shine as she stared at him.
            “My…my, I don’t mean to be forward but you are absolutely gorgeous.”
            Justus sighed his relief, rather than replying audibly to the compliment, as the last call for the woman’s flight came over the loudspeakers once more.  It propelled her into action.  She thanked him for looking after her daughter and hurried away with both children in safekeeping.
Justus felt a tinge of sadness as he watched her meet up with her husband.  The anxious man rushed forward and picked up his wayward daughter in his arms.  She was smiling and waving his way, most likely telling her father of the “color” game.  The man with hair the true color of his daughter’s waved and smiled his thanks to him.
Justus felt an overwhelming grief for the loss of his family.  His parents were deceased and his brother no longer familiar to him.  He was ready for a wife and family of his own and he had waited a long time for her to come to him.  With these thoughts fresh in his mind, he once more searched for the mate who brought all these needs and abilities to surface.  Where is she?  The one who has given me this exquisite world of colors?
Justus sniffed at the air again, walked forward until he found the beckoning scent once more.  He wondered what other delights she would bring to him.  He started walking towards the feminine, welcoming essence which he knew belonged only to her.  The closer he got, the stronger her scent became.  It was then the second miraculous thing happened.  Justus halted and stood completely still with an intense secretive expression on his upturned face, as an interesting, but pleasurably-uncomfortable development, occurred in his crotch. 
“Remarkable.”  His voice broke with huskiness.  The hardening between his thighs made Justus’s mouth quirk in humor.  He chuckled, knowing from others what was happening to his body, yet he’d never experienced an erection of his own.  This was a true indication he was getting closer to her.
 A dark coldness crept over what should have been a joyous occasion as he remembered Lucus was still in the airport.  Although he had lost track of him once he started developing these extra senses, he had to find her before Lucus realized what was happening.  Without his mate, his future would be lost and Lucus would like nothing better than to destroy all of his hopes.
            As Justus neared the object of his growing desire, he detected something else in her scent.  It was a mixture of fear, distress, pain and sickness.  His mate was dying.  A sheer black fright swept through him as he searched anxiously.  His heart called out to hers, willing it to keep beating until he reached her.
He jogged forward; the crowd parted and he saw her.  Justus could feel the struggle of her heart beating rapidly to keep up with his own as he felt the excitement of her nearness.  He calmed himself. 
After learning that his female counterpart wouldn’t be Lykian-born like his brother’s wife, he felt as if he’d been waiting for her all of his adult life.  This was his woman, human born, with the genes in her composition that would allow her to transform with the aid of his nurturing protein enzymes.
The tight knot of anticipation began to build within him.  He couldn’t wait to get to know everything about her.  He just hoped he wasn’t too late.
 
***
 
            Lucus was ever watchful of what was transpiring before him.  He was beyond curious as to what could have caused Justus to be distracted.  It had never happened before and to his amazement, the hunter was lustful.  That was impossible, but Lucus smelled his heated lust in the air.  The scent would only be familiar to a fellow Lykian and for the first time since birth, he didn’t feel the psychic bond to the alpha. 
His pale wolf-like eyes were hard and filled with loathing as he followed Justus’ every movement. “Could it be the Black woman at the phone in headscarf, jeans and sweater?”  Lucus wasn’t sure if she was the one that distracted Justus but she was a distraction to him.  He could feel her pain and it was causing him to become aroused. 
“Could it be her agony that is attracting you, Justus?  Or could you have finally found your mate?”  Lucus chuckled bitterly and licked his lips in anticipation of what this could mean for him.  “Oh, I hope so, for she may be exactly what I need to get you where I want you.”
***
 
            Justus’s brows drew together in an agonized expression.  He could see her obvious pain.  She cradled her head in her hands with her eyes clenched tightly.  Tears streaked over her ashen cheeks. 
His mate was dying and Justus didn’t know if he had enough power to prevent it from happening.  Could the Gods be so cruel as to let him find her now, only to take her from him?  He had yet to discover the things that only she could give him, such as love, pleasure and children. 
If she were to die, she would take everything he had to look forward to with her.  I will not let you leave me, woman, he vowed, taking great strides to reach her side.
She must have felt his descent upon her.  She dropped her hands by her side.  The heavy lashes that shadowed her cheeks flew up.  She lifted her chin and met his steadfast gaze straight on.
            He thought her to be the most beautiful female he had ever seen.  Some may find her common in feature he surmised.  Her facial bones were delicately carved with high exotic cheekbones, generously curved parted lips, full and rounded over even teeth.  Her nose was straight, short and attractive.  It was apparent from the gray pallor beneath her normal earthy hue that she must have been ill for some time. 
He stopped directly in front of her with the tip of his booted feet just an inch away from her.  “I am Justus and you are my mate,” he declared.  “Let me help you.”
            Instant astonishment touched her pallid features.
            He watched her as her eyes moved over his face.  Unchecked tears pooled in her dark brown eyes as he pulled her into his arms, bearing her weight against his frame.  She didn’t attempt to push him away.  It was as if she instinctively knew he truly wanted to help her.  Justus held her gaze attempting to enthrall and ease the hurting in her temples.  He felt a wave of nausea sweep over him.  His head felt as if it would burst.  It’s too late. 
Justus felt the exact moment the vessel inside her skull burst and, as quickly as it had occurred, his colors disappeared and his world once more became drenched in blandness.  He cried out in raw emotion, his breathing became shallow, quick gasps, but he refused to let go of the mental link with her. 
“Stay with me Baby!  You must fight to stay with me.”
Her long lashes raises and lowered as if in slow motion; once, twice, before fluttering close.  Justus’ heart thudded in aching alarm, as he felt her welcoming resolution to give in to the call of death. 
            “No, damn you, don’t you dare give up!  Not now!”  There was a possessive desperation in his voice, as he caught her lifeless body that fell against him. 
Justus craned his head up, wondering about the macabre fascination of passers-by who could idly stand by and watch someone die.  It took all the strength he possessed to keep his link with her so she wouldn’t stop breathing.  He opened his mouth to speak and it came out as a wail as he doubled over in pain and dropped to his knees with the weight of her limp body in his arms.
He knew if he could shift, it would give him more energy.  But it was out of the question in front of onlookers.  No, this time, he would have to depend upon human intervention.
After what felt like an eternity, he heard someone yell out, “Don’t just stand there gawking, people!  Someone call for an ambulance!” 
His dark, thick eyebrows drew together in a cold sweat as he raged an internal battle with death.  He could feel her slipping away but he wasn’t going to let her go that easily.  “No!” he howled in rage.  Panic he’d never known before welled in his throat.
Justus would not allow her to give in to the call of death.  He couldn’t bear to face eternity, knowing she was gone and he was forever alone.  He called out to his Gods, “Do not take her from me.  I beg of you.”
The growing crowd was oblivious to the struggle he was going through.  Closing his eyes, Justus chanted in silence.  Praying and bartering with his soul to whichever God would heed the call for the energy he needed to get her heart pumping.
Shifting her position, Justus placed her ear to his heart while pressing her cold body into his warmth.  Gently, he pressed his large hand over her heart, sending her a portion of his inner embodiment.
Within moments, he felt a faint pulse against his open palm.  He was barely breathing as he poured his life force into her, until it gradually intensified to match the rhythm of his heartbeat.  He focused his concentration to stop the bleeding in her brain and onward, slowing the internal maggots that festered inside her body.  Humans called it cancer. 
He tasted bile in the back of the throat as he continued to heal.  It was only temporary, but it would give them time.  As long as she remained completely human, it would continue to worsen, until she died.  Soon she would learn her fate was to live by his side and give herself to him willingly.  Once the transformation ritual took place, they would be forever as one.  
            He opened his eyes and looked upon her face with an expression that was the closest thing to love he had ever shown.  Now that he had her stable enough to reach the hospital, he could rest. 
Bending down, he whispered against her temple, “You alone, woman, have awakened a lust inside me that I have never known.”  His voice was deep with longing.  “If you die, so does my future, for you are the only one who can relieve me from my impotent state.  I will walk through any hell put before me to keep you by my side.  You must heed my words for they are true…  Fight to stay with me!”  He closed his eyes against the newness of these untried emotions.  “If you leave me, I swear I shall lose all that is human in me.” 
            Justus knew that even though she was close to death, she heard him and she would do her part to stay alive.  How could she let go now that she realized, as he did, that they were destined to bring together their unclaimed essence?
 
***
 
            Lucus’ lips spread into a sinister smile.  He turned away from the touching scene.  Maybe he had just witnessed the end of Justus.  This woman had to be his weakness for him to react so.  They all had one somewhere, even he, but he no longer needed his mate to be whole.  Now that he was a God, spilling the blood of the weak appeased all of his needs. 
Once he got Justus, the Alpha male of his clan, to join him, the others would soon follow and they would take over the world.  He waited to see the day when they no longer had to conform to man just to fit in.
 This woman will weaken Justus’ tracking abilities.  His growing love for her will make him weak and emotional.  This distraction from his duties will be his downfall and he, Lucus, would be there to sway his reasoning when the time is right. 
 Lucus laughed and disappeared into the growing darkness of night, ready to pacify his growing hunger.
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