Half Moon Rising by Margo Lukas

Runaways.

She spied the three street kids standing at end of the bar sneaking pretzels into their pockets. Kids trying to be normal teenagers, at least for a few hours. As hard as it was, not to reach out to them and lead them home, tonight she couldn’t. Tonight she had her own problem to solve.

CJ Duluth sat on the last barstool with her back up against the black cinderblock wall, wearing her usual jeans and T-shirt. She watched her target as he shoved his hands in his pockets and attempted to talk to a girl who writhed on the dance floor next to him.

He hadn’t been hard to track down after she picked up his trail outside of East Seattle High. For someone else, his side trips to the mall and coffee house might have made tailing him difficult. Not for CJ. She had a few special skills going for her.

He had been at this packed teen club for over forty-five minutes. The place reeked of sweat, and someone nearby had overdosed on cologne. With practiced effort she put the odors out of her mind.

CJ had been shocked the first time she caught sight of the person who had left the scent trail so like her own. She had expected to find an older man when she caught the trail outside of the high school building. There had been no mistaking the modern, glass building as the same one she had seen in her recent visions.

She thought she had come to Seattle to find her father. That was her best guess, anyway. Her visions hadn’t come with instructions. That is, if her “visions” had any meaning at all…

Truthfully, her priority was getting rid of these dreadful visions that were wrecking her life. A private detective could only endure so much disruption, and CJ wasn’t about to sit and let them get the best of her.

A large shadow momentarily blocked out the neon light from the low club ceiling. She kept her eyes ahead and the kid in her field of sight.

“They’ve got better drinks in the tavern upstairs.”

CJ didn’t look at the man who planted himself on the barstool next to her. She didn’t respond either. It was a big city. People could be ignored.

“Oh, you came here for the music.” He leaned over to her, as if to reveal a secret, “Me, too. Who needs a melody?” His voice was smooth and commanding. A shiver of sensual awareness snaked across her skin. CJ crossed her arms in front of her chest.

“Not interested.” She laced her tone with annoyance.

He didn’t take the hint and leave, but instead swiveled to face the bar. He ordered lemon water. Encounter over.

His voice…and her reaction…made her curious. A side glance revealed a man wearing a dark suit that stretched across broad shoulders as he leaned on the bar. Just a man. Curiosity satisfied, she turned her full attention back to the kid and caught him glancing at his watch. He likely had to leave soon. She verified the exit locations.

She felt the man start to spin his stool towards her. Shit. He was giving it too much push. Before she could move out of the way, his lemon spiked water drenched her T-shirt.

Idiot.

In a flash he was blotting at her stomach with his handkerchief. Instinctively CJ curved her body away before he made contact. She jerked her head up. Now she’d get a good look at the oaf.

Damn. Not the middle-aged Romeo she expected. Not at all. This guy was fine. CJ’s body responded with that pleasurable tingle of anticipation. She pushed it back down. Again. She did not have time for this tonight.

The blue lights of the club made an indigo glow around him. His golden eyes dominated his face. Shadowed hallows under his high cheekbones, gave way to a classic square jaw. She imagined he had glowing, perfect teeth. She couldn’t tell now.

He wasn’t smiling, or looking all that apologetic either. His yellow eyes were piercing…watching her face intently; studying her as she studied him. She wanted to get a fix on this guy, but she had to keep her attention on the kid. This club was sensory overload.

“Here, take my handkerchief.” He quickly stood up and moved in front of her, effectively blocking her view of the floor. He offered the white square of useless fabric. He had her cornered. CJ rose from her stool to sidestep him and regain her visual on the kid. But before she cleared him, he grabbed her arm.

In an instant reality slipped away.

When she refocused her eyes, the man and the club were gone. She saw only a haze of neon lights. Then a blindingly white wolf with bared teeth emerged from the fog. Its growl shook the ground. Her body flooded with fear, but caught in the vision, her body stayed rooted to the spot.

She listened to the growl for what seemed forever…yet slowly, the guttural sound became a beat. A steady pulse…like music. She grabbed onto that music and concentrated. The growl faded.

The wolf. It was not real she told herself.

She forced herself to look away from the beast. She listened to the music, hearing it growing louder. She couldn’t panic. Not now.

She began her countdown. “Ten, nine, eight…” Just as she had practiced, she slowly pictured herself taking a step backward from the wolf with each count.

“…seven, six, five, four…” Now she could hear the words of the song too, “…three, two…” A wave of pungent cologne engulfed her.

“One.” She shouted it above the din of the club. The wolf and the haze were gone. She leaned back and steadied herself on the barstool.

“Lady?” A voice called her and she looked toward it. It was the bartender.

The man with the golden eyes wasn’t anywhere in sight…and neither was the kid.

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