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Summer of 05

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I think we’ve all had that one summer. The one we’ll look back to when we’re feeling particularly nostalgic, and think how just then, everything was perfect. For Bryan Adams, it was the summer of 69. For me, it was the summer of 2005. By all rights, it shouldn’t have been that great of a summer. It was a few weeks after the debacle with Aurora’s attempted plot to overthrow the natural order of the Faerie courts. Susan had left and though things were stabilizing, I barely had any money to speak of. What I did have, was friends, and purpose. I wouldn’t say “those were the best days of my life”, but I’d most definitely “always wanna be there.”

“Where’s he at?” I called, eyes sweeping across a depressingly familiar sight: A Chicago alley.

Billy the werewolf – in his muscular, russet wolf form, sniffed at the air and turned decisively to the left. Wincing at the weight duffel bag I had slung over one shoulder, and that I’d been carrying around most of the night, I followed his lead. Being a wizard was cool and all, but when it came to smelling stuff, wolves were pretty damn nifty. It may not be as flashy as throwing fireballs around, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t useful. If Billy thought our guy had gone to the left, he’d gone to the left.

We set off down the trash-laden asphalt, moving further into the shadows with Billy a few feet ahead of me. The alley came to a dead end and the man we’d been chasing stood there waiting. He was dressed like a hobo, with worn, old clothes hanging off a lanky frame, and before we’d begun the chase he’d mostly managed to pass for human. Now, his face was distending into something shaped like that of a hyena. Tusks and claws glinted in the weak streetlights above. Black, deeply set eyes darted left and right, looking for a weakness.

There was none. I stood at the center of the alley, shield prepared, blasting rod smoldering with fire at the tip. Billy and Georgia were at my right, Marci and Andi at my left, and I could see it in the ghoul’s body language, the way it tightened in anticipation, that it knew it was about to act.

It went for Marci, who was the smallest of all of the wolves, assuming her to be the weakest link of the chain. The error was a fatal one. My spell, a light, hastily focused wave of force, clipped the ghoul’s legs out from under it and the werewolf girl didn’t hesitate for an instant to close her maw around the creature’s neck. She shook and jerked the ghoul around like a ragdoll and it screamed and fought for a few moments before the sharp crack of its spine snapping brought an end to its struggling.

The wolves fanned out in a loose circle some twenty feet around me as I closed my eyes and focused my magical senses, reaching out into the night. There had been a presence around the ghoul – a dark, cold, insatiable hunger – that I had been able to pick up on before. Now, there was nothing. I gave the alley a last, cursory glance, before finally relaxing and dropping the duffel bag to the asphalt.

“It’s clear,” I said.

At my call, the wolves all shifted, and where there’d been four furry beasts a couple of seconds ago, there were now four very naked people. When I’d first met the Alphas, almost two years earlier, they’d looked more like goth kids than monster fighting vigilantes. In that time, that had changed, and the twenty-somethings who stood before me were hell of a lot more intimidating than the ones I’d first met.

I reached into the duffel and came out with a bottle of water and a change of clothes. I headed over to Marci first. Even with the blood of a supernatural monster spattered around her mouth and on her face, she managed to look awkward, and she was covering up her nudity as best she could with her arms and hands.

I pointedly looked away and held out the clothes and the drink. Marci took both and quickly pulled the light summer dress over her head, then gurgled with the water and spat. She may still be shy, but she’d changed as much as the others. She was leaner now and held herself straighter. Speaking of changes, the way she eyed Andi, that was new, too. Not that I could blame her.

When I’d first met Andi she’d been a pretty, slightly chubby girl, who hadn’t been particularly self-confident. Now? Wolf-duty was clearly doing the trick in terms of physical exercise, but it had done even greater wonders for her self-esteem, and she smiled as she moved over to me without a stitch on her and without a care in the world. My eyes – and Marci’s too – tracked the sway of her hips, the shift of muscle at her belly and thighs. She watched us watch her, and the smile widened, turning into something suggestive. She made no move to take the bundle of clothes I’d grabbed for her.

“Do you think there are any more of them?” Andi said, bouncing a little in place with eagerness. “That wasn’t even a fight.”

It took me a moment longer than it should’ve to process the question.

“Probably. They’re pack hunters. They’ll return, and in greater numbers.”

I threw bundles of clothes at Billy and Georgia, who were giving each other looks suggesting they might want to break up the hunt to go back home for R and R. They dressed and walked over toward the decomposing corpse with me, kneeling at the ground by it.

“Most of the ghouls are tied to some other entity. Usually the vampire courts – mostly the Reds these days – and if they do, they carry a marker to show who their master is.”

I pulled back the sleeve of the hobo’s jacket and, as I suspected, found a loose iron chain. There was a nail hammered through the links, straight through the ghoul’s wrist, to reconnect with chain there. A charm dangled off it, showcasing a sigil of a bird in flight. I’d have to talk to Bob to see which particular faction this guy worked for, but it did rule out them being independents.

“Vampires,” Georgia said, eyes narrowing as I held up the arm and its dangling length of chain to the light.

“Maybe a lot of vampires,” Andi added, moving up to wrap an arm around Marci.

The slender girl went redder still and simply nodded in agreement. I exchanged a knowing glance with Georgia and she very carefully didn’t smile. It was only a matter of time.

“I thought Marcone didn’t stand for this kind of stuff,” Billy said. “If these guys are here, they’ve got to be here on business, or they’re the dumbest monsters in Chicago.”

“We’ll have more work to do,” I agreed. “I’ll need to read up on who these guys are so we know whose nose we’re about to tweak and why.”

“Alright,” Georgia said. “Let’s get to the car and for God’s sake, Andi, put some clothes on.”

Laughing, Andi walked up to Georgia and hugged her tightly, pressing a smacker of a kiss to her cheek before walking up to me and finally collecting her dress.

Billy lead the way out of the alley and we walked down a few nearly empty streets until we found the parking lot where we’d left the mystery machine. I let the others in before me and settled at the back of the van, leaning my head against the wall. Now that the action was over, I was feeling very, very tired. It had been a long night. By the time Georgia pulled over at the old boarding house where my basement apartment awaited me, the sun of the early dawn was warming my neck. I wished I’d suggested we hit a drive-through and hopped out creakily.

“Same time tomorrow,” I said. “Get some rest and stay on your toes.”

There was a chorus of agreement and the car departed to join the rest of the early morning traffic. I dragged my weary self down to my apartment. I wanted, so very badly, to go to bed. But I couldn’t. I still had work to get done, so I put on a pot of coffee, filled up the biggest mug I could find, grabbed a donut I’d left in the pantry that still looked mostly edible, and headed down into the lab.

“Morning, Bob.”

The bleached human skull at the far end of the little box of a sub-basement groaned loudly from its perch on top of one of the many shelves.

“Can’t we do it later?” he complained.

“Nope,” I replied with forced cheer.

Bob considered for a moment – probably weighing the odds of me relenting against how long it might take to just help me out.

“Fine,” he muttered. “Is it something to do with the werewolves? That Andi chick, maybe?”
The candle-flame eye lights brightened and it was my turn to groan tiredly.

“It’s your own time you’re wasting, Bob.”

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said loftily. “I’m sure I could assist you if you let me take Mister out and tag along. They’d never know I was there and I could see her in her full splendor.“

I leaned back in my chair and sipped the coffee, chewing on the stale donut. I gave Bob my best Clint Eastwood squint and waited.

“All I’m saying, Harry, is that the girl wants you to jump her bones. Seriously. I’m not even human and I realized that months ago.”

I almost wished I had a cigarette just for the visual. Instead, I blew some steam off my cup of coffee and sipped the dark nectar.

“Alright, alright,” Bob said, finally. “Clearly you’re beyond even my help when it comes to women. What can I actually help you with?”

I straightened in my chair and threw the iron chain onto the work table at the middle of the room. The shelf rattled as Bob moved a couple of inches closer, eyelights focusing on the chain, the spike, and the little metal bird.

“Ah. That’s trouble.”

“The dead kind of trouble,” I said. “Which clan is that?”

“LaChaise clan. The one allied to the-“

“The Red Court,” I finished. “Well, crap.”

“Quite,” Bob agreed. “They’re quite formidable, for ghouls, and there are rather a lot of them. Killing one of them is something the rest of the pack usually takes personally. What’re they doing here?”

“I figured maybe they wanted the town back. Marcone’s been in charge of prostitution ever since Bianca – uh – died mysteriously.”

“I hear there’s a lot of that money you mortals are so fond of in that sort of business,” Bob said. “Or it’s a revenge gig. They’re patient, those vampires. Sometimes it takes a few years for what goes around to come around.”

“Is there anything you can tell me about the ghouls? How many, where they hang out, what their methods are?”

Bob made a thoughtful sound and I could almost picture him shrugging.

“Ghouls typically haven’t been around in the western world a lot, so it isn’t my area of expertise,” he hedged. “But I can give you my best guesses. Ten to twenty five of them, depending on the size of the job. Any less and you’re better off using something more discreet. Any more and you risk them running amok and drawing attention.”

“Twenty-five?!”

I debated taking a sip of coffee just so I could spit it out dramatically, but decided I didn’t want to clean the floor.

“It’s just a qualified guess,” Bob said. “As for bases of operation, any place where they can stay undetected but close enough to their target. Sometimes the Red Court provides them with food so they don’t go rogue and start hunting, but they don’t always bother. I’d say look for motels near morgues or graveyards.”

I made a few notes and gave up on the coffee and donut altogether. I was fighting a losing battle against sleep already and at this point all they’d do was leave me too jittery to get the rest I’d need later.

“Thanks for the help, Bob.” I said, yawning loudly as I pushed myself up from my chair.

“You need more help than I can offer.”

I ignored that and trudged up to bed. crashed just as the rest of the city woke up.

***

I slept through most of the day and woke up in a sweaty tangle of sheets with a low, eager buzz of anticipation coursing through me. I got up, hopped in the shower, got dressed and was out of the apartment before thirty minutes had gone by.

I took the trusty Blue Beetle through the streets to Billy’s and Georgia’s apartment by the University of Chicago. I knocked on the door and my stomach growled hungrily. I could already smell bacon and frying bread - Marci’s handiwork – and most glorious and important of all, coffee.

The door opened a moment later and Georgia appeared in the narrow slit left by the security chain. She had a serious case of bed-head going on and looked a little bleary, but she smiled as she undid the chain and let me in.

“Hello, Harry.” Half of my name turned into a yawn as she hugged me.

“Morning, Georgia,” I said. “I didn’t wake you, did I?”

She shook her head, brown curls bobbing. “No. It just took me a while to fall asleep last night. Everyone’s here already.”

I could already see Billy and Kirby raise their hands in greeting and then resume an intent conversation over a set of Arkanos character sheets. I followed the scent of frying food and headed into the kitchen, where Marci manned two frying pans at once, cooking eggs in a basket.

I ruffled up her hair as I walked past her and she attempted to swat me with the plastic spatula, but alas, I was too fast. Andi sat by the kitchen table, head resting on her arms, eyes closed.

“Couldn’t sleep, either?” I asked as I leaned back against the kitchen counter.

Andi made a vague, pained sound, and Marci blushed. “She slept here tonight,” the slight girl said, cracking an egg and pouring it into the prepared piece of bread with its cut out center.

“Okay?” I said, frowning.

“My hosts were feeling a little – what was the word again?”

“Amorous,” Marci supplied, cracking another egg – one handed I might add – and repeating the process with the bread.

“Yeah. That. Went at it forever, so I couldn’t sleep. Christ, the two of them have some stamina.”

I snagged two cups out of a cupboard and filled them both up with the dark elixir of life, adding plenty of creamer and sugar to mine, and neither to Andi’s. She accepted the cup and then slumped back down on the table while she waited for the drink to cool.

I cast Marci a significant look, then flicked my eyes over to Andi. The girl shook her head, colour rising up her neck.

“Come on,” I mouthed.

Marci settled the spatula down with a shaking hand.

“You could sleep at my place,” she said tentatively. “It’s not exactly comfy, but they won’t be
there and – you know.”

Andi pushed herself up off the table and smiled gratefully at Marci. “Awesome. Thanks.”

I mouthed the words “Good job” and headed back to the living room to see what the rest of the Alphas were up to. Georgia had joined in on their discussion and it took a full minute before they even realized I was there.

“Food’s ready,” I told them. “And I’ve got info on the ghouls. Come on.”

We had a late brunch and it was awesome. Marci’s cooking always was. With toast in one hand and coffee in the other, I laid out all the things I’d learned from Bob.

“That’s a lot of ghouls,” Billy said when I’d finished.

“Too many,” Marci said, frowning.

“Not if we’re smart,” Andi said.

I nodded. “The ghouls aren’t the biggest problem. The vampires running the show are. They might be there themselves, or have human goons for back-up. We don’t know. We can’t fight them until we know more.”

“So we’re on scout duty tonight?” Billy asked.

“Yup. Low-key scout duty. I’ve got a list of places prepped. We’ll pair up and check them out.” I scowled each of them down in turn. “No heroics tonight. If you see them, you get out of there and you get in touch with the rest of us.”

There was a muted grumble of agreement.

We crack out our D20s and rolled for our pairings and end up with Kirby and Marci, Andi and Billy, with myself and Georgia. We took my list of probable locations and assigned them evenly to each team.

“Report in at midnight,” I said. “Save the crit fails for Arkanos.”

And so, we went out into the night, doing the one thing you’re never, ever meant to do. We split the party.

***

“So. How are things?”

We were in the parking lot just outside Graceland Cemetery, smack dab in the middle of Chicago, and things looked mostly normal. As normal as graveyards can look, I suppose.

“I don’t owe money to anyone nowadays, so there’s that,” I said, shrugging.

Georgia gave me a steady look. “That isn’t what I was talking about.”

I returned the look. “I know that. I don’t want to talk about Susan.”

“Understood... But maybe it would be good for you to try.”

“Are you shrinking me, Georgia?”

She raised an eyebrow at me. “You could use it. Might be easier to find pants if you were smaller.”

She wasn’t about to let this drop. “It sucks. It’s getting better, but it still sucks.”

Georgia stepped in closer and put her arm around my back. She was tall enough to reach my shoulders. More or less.

“Maybe she’ll find what she’s looking for and come back.”

I winced. “Maybe.”

Denial. The first stage of grief. I’m sure she had a lot of things to say about that. Maybe add some Freud-related joke. But she didn’t. Georgia was pretty good about knowing when to push and when to back off.

We took a quick stroll through the boneyard as it emptied. Soon, most of the sensible people would be gone and that would be the moment the ghouls were waiting for. Either they’d grab someone or, more likely, use the lack of witnesses to indulge in some snacking. Ghouls eat a lot and a group that size would need to go through a lot of flesh. Fortunately for them, they weren’t picky. Dead, alive, rotting. It didn’t really matter.

We walked in silence for a while, scanning the surrounding for any fiends or fiendish behaviour. I did spot a guy who clearly hadn’t watched Braindead relieve himself on one of the gravestones, but beyond that, there was nothing out of the ordinary, and as we completed our second lap of the place, night had settled over Chicago

The fact that the search hadn’t immediately yielded fruit didn’t worry me. I hadn’t expected it to. It was now that it was dark that we could really get going.

“Alright,” I said. “Let’s get this party started.”

Georgia pulled her dress up in a smooth, unhurried motion. She handed it to me and then she shifted and a lithe, tawny wolf took her place. We resumed our circuit of the place, Georgia walking close to my side whenever we passed anyone. Graceland’s a big place and it took a while to investigate all of it, but after about an hour’s search of the large mausoleums, the faux Greek temples and the fresh graves we’d found, there was nothing to suggest a ghoul presence.

Georgia straightened up in her human form again.

“I think it’s a bust, Georgia,” I said. “What was next on the list, again?”

Even as I spoke, I caught sight of something out of the corner of my eye. A party of people coming in over a low section of wall, moving past it with a smooth, dangerous agility that suggested they may just be what we were looking for. A moment later a telltale cold, slithering sensation went down my spine.

Georgia’s brown eyes locked onto them. “Ghouls?”

“Bingo.”

I acted on instinct and headed for the shadows, pulling Georgia with me in between two large mausoleums.

“Stay still,” I whispered, and began to focus my will into one of the weakest tricks I had up my sleeve. A veil.

It felt like being covered in plastic wrap, as the veil took effect, and the rest of the world blurred around us. A good veil would render the user perfectly invisible except as a shimmer in the air if you were moving around. Mine mostly made us blend into the darkness. Mostly. What was more important was that it incorporated an element of phonoturgy, which meant that nobody with superhuman hearing would hear the rapid hammering of my heartbeat.

“Okay,” I said. “We should be good here so long as we don’t move.”

It wasn’t until that moment I realized the position our haste – well, mine – had put us in. We stood squeezed in between the crypts with barely any space to move even if we wanted to. I had my back to cool, smooth stone, and Georgia was pressed snugly against me. My leg had ended up between her thighs and her chest pressed to mine, warmth seeping through my thin t-shirt.

I considered going against what I’d just said and moving a little to get us both more comfortable, and then the ghouls arrived. They were talking to one another in a language I didn’t speak as they walked casually down the little path that went past our hiding spot.

My heart pounded hard in my chest and my instincts were screaming at me to run. I didn’t. Georgia seemed to be on the same page and though I could feel her quickened breath, warm and distractingly pleasant against my neck, she stayed still.

The ghouls walked on by - easily two dozen of them - one after the other, and then one of the stragglers came to a halt. He - or she, it’s not always easy to tell with ghouls - stooped down and picked up a slip of dark gray fabric. Georgia’s dress.

I focused hard on the veil, keeping my hold on the magic and to keep control. Fear was good. Panic was not. The ghoul sniffed the dress and its face contorted into something that was probably a frown.

It wasn’t until then that I actually noticed that Georgia was naked and once I had, there was really no way I couldn’t not notice it. I mean, hell. She held on tight to me, arms wrapped around my waist, her slender thighs around mine, and her bare breasts pressed against my chest.

Gulp.

The ghouls were talking, one throwing the dress to another, who took a sniff. It wasn’t them being creeps. They were trying to use her scent to track us.

“They can’t smell us in here,” I said. “Just pretend they’re a T-rex and stay still.”

Georgia shivered. She looked down towards the circle and her fingers tightened at the back of my t-shirt. “Is that really how a T-rex works? I’m pretty sure those movies were just making stuff up.”

“Of course it is. I’m a wizard. I know these things.”

The ghouls had gathered around their buddy and his find and were apparently debating it. Some scattered and followed our trail back where we had come from. Others stood where they were, clearly pondering this mystery. Ghouls had a tendency to lose focus if they weren’t clearly directed.

They were one of two problems. The second? Well, having a warm, panting, naked and pretty woman pressed up against you was bound to get a reaction sooner or later. With it being over a year since Susan had left, it ended up happening much, much sooner than I would’ve preferred. Within less than a minute, I was achingly, painfully hard and I heard Georgia make a soft sound. I chanced a glance at her and found her looking up at me, brown eyes wide and round with surprise, pupils dilated with her no doubt spiking adrenaline.

“Sorry,” I said sheepishly.

Georgia’s mouth turned up at one corner in almost perfect unison with one eyebrow. “It’s been a while, I take it?”

I glared down at her, shivering as she shifted from foot to foot, brushing up against my lap. For a moment, just a brief fraction of a second, her form solidified into an outline.

“Careful,” I said, the urgency making my voice a little sharper than I would’ve liked.

The ghouls were scattering into smaller groups, most seeming to lose interest in the mystery of the dress, but they weren’t out of our hair yet. Georgia pressed in close again and I could see her trying to track each group without moving her head too much. Her hair smelled like lavender.

“It’s perfectly normal under the circumstances,” Georgia said unhelpfully. “Adrenaline, excitement. It happens to the best of us.”

I eyed her. “Yeah. I’ve seen you and Billy after a fight, Georgia.”

At least she had the grace to blush. “Well, yes. I know what I’m talking about.”

“You’ve no idea how comforting that isn’t,” I said

Georgia snorted out a laugh. “Andi is definitely interested, you know. If you want to let off some steam. She’s fine with keeping things casual.”

I glared down at her. “Are you seriously trying to set me up with Andi? Here? Now?”

“I think it would be good for you. You’re obviously pent up and lonely, especially since S-”

She cleared her throat after narrowly having missed using the S-word.

“I’m okay. Everything is fine.”

Georgia gave our surroundings a cursory scan and then let her eyes drop momentarily before meeting mine for a dangerous second.

“Nothing is ever fine with you.”

“Ouch,” I said, trying for a pout. “That stings.”

The ghoul came out of nowhere, appearing in the narrow gap between buildings with its dark, beady eyes narrowed as it peered through us and into the night. I pulled Georgia close on pure instinct and for a moment, the veil was visible in a light shimmer.

Like I said before: Ghouls are very, very useful. They’re remorseless killing machines and they’ll eat up all the evidence when they’re done. They are not particularly clever, though. The ghoul starred in consternation for a few seconds, then dismissed us and walked on.

“That was close,” Georgia whispered, her breath hot and fast on my neck.

I winced at the press of the defined muscles of her stomach against my erection. “Yeah. Too close.”

I’d expected her breathing to slow, but it didn’t, and it tickled pleasantly against my skin at each exhale. Her thighs squeezed lightly on mine and I thought I felt her shudder. The tips of her breasts were hard, noticeably so even through my t-shirt.

The ghouls were scattering now and I could hear them digging with their filthy clawed fingers, looking for an early night snack.

“Try not to move too much,” I told her, my voice coming out a little strained.

Georgia snorted out a nervous laugh. “Because of them… Or that?”

She cast one sideways glance toward the ghouls, then another downwards.

“Let’s just say it’s a little bit of both.”

“It doesn’t have to be that big a deal. It’s not like its the first time.”

I coughed. I had hoped she hadn’t noticed those other times. No such luck, apparently.

“If the situation was reversed, can you seriously say you’d be totally cool and that it wouldn’t be awkward at all?”

She did blush a little, then. “Not to say it wouldn’t be embarrassing, but it doesn’t have to be that big a deal.”

She really needed to stop fidgeting in place. Each time she moved in the tight press of our narrow confines, she ended up brushing up against me, and it was all I could do not to press back, to shamelessly grind myself up against her.

“Easy for you to say.”

“Not exactly.”

I frowned at her. Did she mean? I felt a low throb of need pulse through me.

I made a noise of inquiry and now it was Georgia’s time to give me a mildly exasperated look and my turn to smile wryly at her.

She sighed. “I suppose it’s only fair you know that I’m-”

Georgia hesitated and pressed her fever-hot forehead against my t-shirt.

“If it’s no big deal you should be able to say it,” I said, excitement and laughter warring for dominance and eventually deciding on an equal truce.

“Wet.”

It did something to me, hearing that. I was aching with need in the worst kind of way and I though I hadn’t realised it, my hands were on Georgia’s hips. It didn’t seem like she’d realised it, either.

“Like you said. Adrenaline. The thrill of the fight. That stuff.”

She managed a wry smile. “Yes. That ‘stuff’.”

“Great,” I said. “Now we’re both uncomfortable.“

“I never thought I’d agree with Faith, but I guess the whole slaying monster business does make you hungry and horny.”

Now that I knew, I could feel the heat of her against my thigh. I shifted, just a little, and a soft breath hissed out between her teeth. Christ, I could feel how wet she was against my leg. My fingers tightened on her hips and I found myself running my thumb along the trembling muscles of her stomach. I found myself looking down into her brown eyes. Her lips parted and her tongue darted out to wet them. For a moment there, we very, very nearly did something stupid. I’m not sure what made me tear myself away, but I only just did, and realised that the ghouls were leaving.

“Hey,” I said. “Look.”

Georgia blinked and shook herself, tracking my gaze until she saw what I’d seen.

“Oh. We should probably follow them.”

I grinned sheepishly. “Probably.”

She took a step back, finally breaking the circle, and the whole world washed back in us. Neither of us were usually that squeamish about nudity, but I made a point of looking away while Georgia got dressed in her backup set of clothes. It gave me a moment to… Uh. Arrange myself until I calmed down.

“Right,” I said awkwardly. “Let’s see where they’re headed. You know, I never really watched Buffy.”

“What!?”

***

We tracked the ghouls down to one of the less reputable motels in town and watched them from cover at a little wooded hill as the lot of them piled into two rooms. I kept watch while Georgia made a call to the rest of the crew, and she returned within a few minutes.

“Nobody else has found anything,” she reported. “Kirby and Marci caught a mugger, if that counts.”

I made a sound of agreement, still staring down at motel and our resident ghouls. “They’re probably laying low for tonight if they’ve already fed,” I said.

“Speaking of which,” Georgia added, then winced and sighed. “Actually, no. That’s a terrible segue, but Andi said they were all going for some dinner.”

My stomach growled at the mention of food. It wasn’t like either of us or the ghouls were going anywhere for now. “I could eat. Tell em to get it to go and meet us here.”

The gang took thirty minutes to get us and we spent the time in an awkward silence. I mean, what’re you really supposed to say after something like that happens? I sure didn’t know and when Billy and the others arrived it was kind of a relief. An awkward relief, but still. The smell of burgers helped balancing it out.

Kirby had an ice-pack pressed to his cheek, but he was grinning despite that as he spoke to Marci about some old shared memory of theirs. Billy headed straight for Georgia with a bag of food and, by the smell of it, a cup of hot chocolate.

“Here you go, Harry,” Andi said, giving me my own greasy bag of food. “Extra bacon, extra cheese and no pickles.”

“You’re the best, Andi,” I said. “If I ever become president, I’m building you a statue or something.”

“Excellent. Make sure you get the rack right.” She settled next to me. “How did you guys do?”

Well, I’d spent most of the evening snuggled up with Georgia, and it had felt way, way better than it should’ve.

“Ghouls,” I said shortly, pointing out the motel. “They’re shacked up across the road, there.”

“All of em’?”

I nodded. “Figured we’d stake the place out. If they split up we go full on rambo on their asses.”

Andi collected her own burger, which had a heretical slice of pineapple in it, and chomped down. She spoke to me with her mouth half-full. “Good plan. I wanna kick some ass. Marci got to have all the fun last time.”

I had some frustrations I wouldn’t mind taking out on ghouls, too. “There’ll be plenty to go around.”

I bit down on my burger and enjoyed myself. It wasn’t burger king, but it was still pretty damn good.

“Look at em’.”

I must’ve spaced out for a moment. “Huh?”

Andi flicked a glance over to Billy and Georgia who were talking quietly to one another, their food mostly forgotten, lost in another’s eyes.

“Ah,” I said sagely. “Jealous, are we?”

“Hell no,” Andi said. “I was just going to say that it looks like they’re about to jump each other on the spot.”

I snorted. “Jealous, then.”

Andi glowered and punched my arm. “Am not.”

“We’re on the job,” I said with more conviction than I felt. “They’ll just have to wait until they get home.”

She snorted. “At least I’ll get some peace and quiet this time around.”

Georgia was whispering something in Billy’s ear and, with the werewolves work-uniform being sweatpants, it wasn’t difficult to spot the effect her words were having on him. They broke off for a moment and then both rose as one and came over to us.

Georgia took the lead, still holding onto Billy’s hand. He came up a little bit behind her.

“Forgot my glasses in the van,” he said. “So –uh.”

“We’re going to go get them,” Georgia filled in smoothly. “Won’t be long.”

They headed off and I felt Andi’s gaze on me again. “What?”

“They just abandoned their post for a quickie,” Andi said. “You know that, right?”

“Or he’s really getting his glasses.”

“They were in his pocket,” she said. “I could see it bulge out a little – and speaking of-“

I waved a hand to cut her off. “Please stop right there. I don’t want to know. Maybe they’re getting something else.”

Was I weighing anchor firmly in De-Nial? Oh yes. Was I stealing Bob’s material? Definitely not and you can’t prove anything.

“Oh they’re getting something alright. You wanna make this interesting, then?”

Well, shit. It was time to go big or go home. I’ve rarely been sensible enough to just back away from the table. “Fine. It’s a bet.”

Andi nodded, got to her feet and raised her voice a little to address Kirby and Marci. “We’re just going to go check on them.”

They both nodded, but I had a feeling they weren’t paying much attention at this point. They’d grown up in the same small Texas town once upon a time and had been pretty tight-lipped about it all, but from what I’d gathered, they’d had a tough time of it. Whatever memory they were talking about had them both laughing and crying in equal parts.

Kirby was showing Marci the bruise on his cheek and complaining about how he was going to explain that one at his brother’s wedding. The life of the clandestine superhero had its drawbacks to go along with the perks.

We snuck off into the dark of the night and with Andi’s help it wasn’t long before we caught up on their trail, which led us into to a nearby alley.

“So, what are the stakes once I win?” I asked, trying to sound confident as much for my own benefit as Andi’s.

“Once I win,” Andi said, with a grin and a healthy dose of emphasis. “I think it’s only fair I get to see you naked.”

I blinked at her. “What?”

“You heard me. We’re all running around naked every night. Now it’s your turn.”

Well, shit. “Fine. What makes you so confident, anyway?”

“Georgia barely touched her coco.”

Double shit. That was damning evidence. Like any lawyer presented with damning evidence, I tried to wiggle my way around it. “It could’ve been bad coco.”

“As if Billy would buy her bad coco.”

It was another good point. I tried to sound confident despite it all. “So -- When I win, what do I get?”

We came to a halt as the alley branched off into another. I could hear the sounds of movement and heavy breathing. Andi smirked and crooked a finger toward me. I obliged her and leaned down enough for her to get on her tippy toes and whisper into my ear:

“Anything you want. Anything.”

I shuddered at the low, husky tone of her voice, and poked my head around the corner to see how our bet was about to unfold.

They stood by the van, in the dim illumination cast off a nearby streetlight, with Georgia pressed back against the steel frame of the car. Billy’s pants were at his ankles and Georgia had discarded her spare sweatpants, wrapping long, slender legs around his waist. Her head was thrown back to lay bare her long, elegant neck, her eyes half-shut, and her mouth open as she spoke quietly to Billy as he took her fast and hard.

“Seems like I win,” Andi said, just a touch smugly. She sidled up well within my personal space and kept on watching. “Sheesh. Look at em’ go.”

“I’m not giving you the Full Monty right here, Andi,” I said.

My voice came out sounding a little rougher than normal, as arousal once more stirred within me. Andi chuckled.

“We can get to that later,” she said. “Do that Listening thing you do and tell me what she’s saying.”

“No,” I said firmly.

“Oh come on. Trust me, you’ll want to hear it. She always says the dirtiest stuff you wouldn’t even believe.”

“You know, I’m beginning to suspect you weren’t very upset about losing sleep last night.”
She turned around and we had just enough light to go by that I could see the lazy, sensual grin stretching her mouth.

“Just what are you suggesting, Harry?”

“I don’t know. What do you think?” I said it in a dry, deadpan tone.

“That I was up half of the night, touching myself while I listened to them go at it, pressing my pillow against my mouth to stifle the moans as I came along with them again and again?”

My mouth went dry at the mental image that put in my head and I was suddenly overwhelmed by the need to touch her, rip her clothes off and feel her skin against mine.. Some parts of me were lobbying for it more enthusiastically than others.

“Something like that,” I said, the words coming out as half a groan.

“So tell me…”

I closed my eyes and dragged my focus from the scent of Andi, the heat of her body, and focused outwards, cutting out the sound of traffic, of distant shouting, sirens and loud music until I locked on to Billy and Georgia.

“So what did you do?” Billy asked, his voice tight with need and exertion.

“N-nothing,” Georgia said. I could see the muscles of her stomach tremble.

“What did you want to do?”

“Billy-” With her legs wrapped around his waist, Georgia met each of his thrusts smoothly.

“Answer the question.” There was something dark and primal in Billy’s eyes.

“I wanted to - to grind up against his leg. Come all over it.”

They were breathing hard, the both of them, and something in Georgia’s voice had a note of pleading to it.

“Why didn’t you?”

“I didn’t know if you’d be okay with it.”

“You know I would be.”

“It felt weird, not having you there. If you had been there, maybe.”

I could hear the way Billy smirked at her in his next words. “So if I’d been there, you would’ve ridden his leg, would you?”

“Yes.” The word came out as a drawn out moan.

“What’re they saying?” Andi asked.

I lost focus on Billy and Georgia for a moment, the sounds of their lovemaking interrupted by the heavy breathing of Andi. I couldn’t see her hand, but I thought I heard the soft rustle of friction against fabric. My underwear was slick with pre-cum where the tip of my cock pressed up against them and I felt like if I didn’t get some release – and soon - I was going to explode.

“Just what you said they would,” I replied. “Shush. I’m listening.”

Georgia was talking, her voice low and urgent, her hips rolling against Billy’s every thrust.

“- And I want you both to take me, pinning me between you, coming inside me and – shit, shit, shit.”

She let out a moan loud enough that Andi must’ve heard it and her entire body stiffening in an arch, legs tightening, toes curling. . She kept meeting Billy’s continuous thrusts lazily, with little shuddery aftershocks running down her body each and every time.

Billy managed to hold her full weight without her or the back of the car supporting any of it, and Georgia’s body almost straight out from his – A damn impressive display of athleticism. He held out for thirty seconds at most before his legs and buttocks tightened, his thrusts grew jerky and he came. He stumbled forward half a step until he once more had her pinned to the car and Georgia slipped down along it, settling shaky feet on the ground.

“They’ll be wondering what took us so long,” she said.

“Let them,” Billy said gruffly, slipping off the condom and disposing off it in a nearby trashcan before pulling his pants back up. “We’ll just say the glasses were under the seat or something.”

“I find it unlikely they’ll buy that.”

“Got a better idea?”

I pulled back from my Listening and grabbed Andi’s shoulder. “Come on. We need to head back.”

“Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. Let’s go.”

We snuck back the way we’d come, hurrying down the streets toward out stake-out spot. Hurrying in nothing but a little dress for Andi meant a gratuitous amount of jiggling, and my gaze kept on drifting sideways to take in that particularly glorious sight. Andi caught me pretty much right away and flashed me a wicked grin.

“If only we had time,” she purred.

I tried to think of something to say to that. I think it came out as “Gulp”. Andi laughed softly and licked her lips.

“Later,” she promised.

By the time we made our way back, Kirby and Marci had shaken off their nostalgia and were keeping their full attention on the motel.

“Anything?” I asked, settling next to them.

“Nah,” Kirby said. “Whole lotta nothing. If being punched by a drunk mugger is all the action we’re getting tonight I’m going to be pissed.”

I could hear Andi try to stifle a laugh.

“Light’s still on in there, though,” Marci added. “So they’re awake.”

“We could go in there when they’re asleep,” Andi said.

I shook my head. “Too many of them. Even if they were all asleep I don’t think we could deal with them fast enough.”

“Got any magic that could take them out?”

I winced. “Yeah, but it’ll probably take out more than just their room, so that’s a negative on that. Besides, if I burn down another building Murphy’s going to make sure the fire marshal hangs a bell around my neck.”

“So we wait,” Kirby concluded. He frowned, then added. “Where did Georgia and Billy go?”

“To the car,” Andi said. “The idiot forgot his glasses.”

“Aah. Of course he did.”

Kirby was apparently satisfied with that and we returned to our silent vigil. Bill and Georgia returned a little while later, far too relaxed, and trying too hard to make polite small-talk as the minutes ticked on. It wasn’t until almost two hours later that the ghouls finally decided to do something.

Six of them slipped out of their room and set off down along the street, and the Alphas and I set off in pursuit. We tracked them for half an hour and made our way to the North Shore area. The houses here were expensive and owned by the very richest people in the city. I didn’t know who lived in the house we were coming up on but it didn’t really matter.

The ghouls snuck up from the beach and along the brush by the four foot wall surrounding the property.

The Alphas were all getting their game-face on and huddled up around me, each handing me their clothes in turn to stash into the sports bag. Georgia’s cheeks were flushed and she wouldn’t meet my eye as she gave me sweatpants and t-shirt. Andi, on the contrary, winked and sauntered off a few steps with an unnecessary amount of sway to her hips before shifting into her wolf form.

“Alright, everyone,” I said. It was hard to sound authoritarian with a semi, but I did my best.

“Listen up, because here’s my master plan.”

I laid it out to them quickly, and we set off along the beach, the Alphas taking the lead now that we were moving into the dark. We followed the ghouls’ trail, rounded the wall to the part of the property facing the lake, and found the creatures halfway through getting their group across.

I held up two fingers and then pointed at one of the stragglers, then repeated the gesture with the next. “Go.”

The wolves charged in pairs, as instructed, barely visible in the high grass, and the ghouls didn’t realise what was happening until they were upon them. Kirby and Billy hit them first, with the leader of the Alphas smashing into the ghoul’s legs, unbalancing it, and darting out of the way before it could rake at him with its talons. Kirby came at its other side, grabbed hold of one of its flailing legs, and ripped its Achilles tendon to shreds.

Marci and Georgia went for the second ghoul a moment later, and managed to overpower it, pinning it to the ground.

Andi came up at the last ghoul half a second after the others and for a supernatural predator that was more than enough. Its body was hunching forward, arms lengthening, and it pounced at her.

The Alphas had been patrolling Chicago’s streets for a while now and one of the things Billy had drilled them in was to never, ever take on a supernatural predator alone. Andi heeded that lesson and was never attempting to take the ghoul herself. She simply darted out of the way of its pounce, and its follow-up attack, and the next, drawing it away from its fellows.
I had my own part of the fight to manage and as the ghouls began to climb back over the wall, I was ready. With vicious uppercut of kinetic force. Straight into its face. Teeth scattered everywhere and the ghoul landed somewhere in the garden with a thump.
Fuck yeah. That was satisfying. Just what the doctor had ordered.

Its buddy was just behind it and I tagged him in the shoulder, sending him spinning off down to the ground and, by the sounds of things, landing in a swimming pool. The third peeked up and then ducked down again, waited for a moment, and hissed something in a foreign tongue. Splashing could be heard and then they all hopped up at the same time. I sent another working of force at them, but with the energy dispersed to get all of them, it was weak enough that they could hunker down, dig their claws into the stone wall, and weather it.

Next thing I knew, three ghouls were coming over the wall and heading straight for me.
There wasn’t any time for anything fancy. The first charged me like a linebacker and smashed his nose flat against my shield. I angled the concentric ring of force to the left and smacked the next ghoul like Captain America as he lunged, then tried to catch the third coming from the other flank, and realized it was way too late. The ghoul bared its teeth, rows upon rows of jagged, shark like protrusions, and went for my arm.

Georgia’s lithe wolf-form swept out of the darkness and ripped at the creature’s hamstrings. It staggered at the last, critical moment and I managed to get my staff in between myself and its snapping, slavering maw.

Marci came in next and together, the two werewolves bore him down and, ripping and snarling. The other two ghouls weren’t faring much better. Two of them were getting backed up against the wall and, seeing how things were going, one of them turned tail and ran for it. Outnumbered three to one, his buddy didn’t stand a chance.

Now, ghouls are fast. Not as fast as a vampire, who would probably give my old car a run for its money, but faster than any human sprinter. The wolves were faster. I ended up lagging behind and watching from afar as they ran the ghoul down in on the beach, surrounding it and closing in on it from every direction. One would dart in and feint, drawing its attention, and then another struck at the opening. They took no chances, taking it apart piece by piece, and by the time I caught up it was down to one barely working leg and one arm. Billy went in for its leg, and as he bore it down into the sand, the rest swarmed over its thrashing body and tore it apart.

We moved away from the rapidly rotting corpse and settle again some hundred yards downwind along the beach. There, the alphas shifted back in the human form and sunk down on the sand, panting with what I took to be mixed excitement and exertion. I passed around the water.

Billy was still on his feet, walking among the others, commending them for their efforts in the fight.

“Smart move, keeping that third ghoul busy, Andi. Just like we talked about.”

He moved over to Kirby, hugging the naked man and slapping him on the back, then to Marci, settling by her side and wiping the blood off her mouth with the back of his hand.

“The kill-streak continues,” he said, grinning. Marci nodded and her teeth glinted in a brief, fierce smile.

At the same time, Georgia moved among them, too, checking everyone for injuries. She fussed over Kirby, who’d taken a glancing blow to the scalp, and then came over to me.

“You okay, Harry?” She asked.

I looked up at her, my eyes taking in the full tour of her form in a way I’d always actively avoided in the past. Shapely calves, clear definitions at the muscles of her thighs, a light patch of tawny hair between her thighs that did not quite obscure the contours of her sex. Slender hips, defined musculature at her belly, still trembling in little jitters from the adrenaline, just like when she’d – I shut that line of thought down. The tips of her modest breasts stood out taut in the cool night air. Her smile was gentle, her eyes worried, and her hair was a mess of light brown curls. I really, really shouldn’t be paying attention, but it was hard to shake the memory of her getting off in that alley only a few hours ago.

She settled next to me. “I’m fine,” I said. “Just a bit winded, is all. I haven’t been out of the lab to do a lot of jogging up until recently.”

“You know what we should do?” Andi said, pushing herself up off the ground. “We should go
skinny dipping.”

“Skinny dipping,” Kirby repeated, sounding mildly dubious. “We’re already naked, Andi. Doesn’t that sorta defeat the purpose?”

“Hell no,” Andi said. “Just makes it easier.”

“That’s not what it means-“

“Come on,” Andi insisted. “It’ll be fun!”

She looked around at the others for support. “I wouldn’t mind getting the sand and the ghoul blood off me,” Billy said.

“Looks cold,” Marci said.

Andi turned to me. “Come on, Harry. Time to pay up.”

I sighed. Well, I had been stupid enough to make that deal. I needed to stop doing that.

“Fine,” I said. “I’m due a bath this summer, anyway.”

I’m not extremely body-conscious or anything, but I don’t exactly parade around naked all the time, either. Stripping in front of everyone was… Awkward. Most of them were good sports about looking away, or pretending to mostly look away as was the case with both Billy and Georgia, actually. Andi didn’t even try to pretend, but leered at me as I finally pulled off my boxers.

“Well, what’re you waiting for?” I asked. “Let’s go.”

Even in Summer, the waters of Lake Michigan aren’t very warm, but on this particular night the chill was a sweet thing, and we all waded out.

It’s important to unwind after a fight. Even a short one where nobody’s gotten hurt and things tended to get just a little bit silly after battles. Especially when there was any sort of alcohol around one could pour into a shot glass. Kirby instigated things this time, splashing water at Marci, and catching Billy in the crossfire. Billy retaliated and things devolved into general splashing and roughhousing from that point on. I managed to dodge out of the way of the worst of it, but got jumped by Andi, who leapt at my back and wrapped her arms and legs around me.

“Not bad, Harry,” she said, adjusting her position and, in doing so, pressing her breasts up against my back. “I thought you’d chicken out for sure.”

My voice came out a little shaky. “I’ve tried to get out of deals before. It never ends well.”

I could feel her hot breath on my neck and it was enough for me to start to get hard again. Christ.

Andi loosened her grip just a little, settling one foot against my hip, and I took that moment to strike. I reached behind me, got hold of one arm and one leg, and hurled her off into the water. Sputtering and soaked, red hair clinging to the curves of her body, Andi appeared a moment later. The water came up to her upper thighs and my eyes lingered greedily on the flex of muscles, and the slick russet curls at the apex of her thighs.

“Oh, you’re dead, Dresden,” she said.

She advanced carefully, slipping underneath my guard as I put up a token effort to push her back, and managed to lock her legs around my waist. My teeth were chattering, and the cold had nothing to do with it.

Andi’s lips turned up in a devious little smile as she pressed closer and felt how hard I was.

“Looks like we’ve arrived at ‘later’, huh?”

“Looks like,” I said, trying to sort through the confusion muddle of thoughts running through my head, and failing completely. “Maybe this isn’t the best place.”

Andi’s green eyes were luminous and something about the wickedly amused expression reminded her of my faerie godmother. “They’re not looking,” she argued.

I looked off to the side, and realized that I couldn’t even see the others. Oh, I heard them, but it was dark enough that I couldn’t make them out. Andi, on the other hand, was right here. She was warm, with water drops glinting and highlighting the curves of her body. She steadied herself with her hands on my forearms, rolling her hips forward to press the heat of her sex along the length of my cock.

My heart was pounding more frantically than during the fight, and I felt a shudder run down my entire body at the contact, need and heat flaring within.

“Andi.”

“Mmm?” Again, she rolled her hips, and I felt all the pressure built up over months, but especially tonight, welling up inside me.

“You should – we should take it easy.”

“Why?” She asked, panting against my chest. “I want you inside me.”

She ground her hips against mine again, sandwiching my cock between her body and mine, and I only barely managed to choke down a low groan as the pleasure roared through me and I spilled myself all over her stomach.

Her eyes widened and she laughed softly, drawing things out by a few more slow rolls of her hips before settling with her cheek against my chest.

“Guess you still owe me one,” she said, laughing softly.

“Yeah,” I said. “Uh – Needless to say, this isn’t a common thing.”

She snorted. “Happens to most guys every now and then.”

“Not to wizards,” I said.

“Uh-huh.” She leaned in and whispered. “You should come with me tonight.”

“Thought I just did.”

She smacked my shoulder. “To Marci’s. Come with us. Have a few drinks. Crash there.”

This had been a long time coming and I’d resisted it every step of the way. The ghost of my relationship with Susan had been haunting me ever since she’d left but it was time to let go. I dropped my hands down her back, nails gently dragging along her spine until I had her ass cupped it my hand. I squeezed, pressing her close to me, and bending forward to capture her lips in a lazy kiss. Andi began to shift her hips against my slowly slackening erection, humming in satisfaction, and I lost myself in the feel of her for a while.

Then I could hear a man say, quite clearly. “Mr Dresden. If you and your associates would be so good as to join me that would be appreciated.”

I pulled out of the kiss and gently eased Andi back into the water. It seemed that John Marcone had once more decided to come piss on my parade.

“Be right with you, John,” I said. “We’ll all be right there.”

The laughter and the splashing had ceased. I had put enough emphasis into my statement to hopefully ensure nobody did anything rash. Behind me, Andi was washing the – uh – evidence of our little encounter off her belly and breasts. I quickly mimicked her and then stepped back to land.

John Marcone stood by our deserted pile of clothes and gear in a tailored suit of immaculate cut, waiting patiently. Or at least he looked as though he was being patient. For all I know, he could be furious under that cool mask. His enforcer Hendricks, a 250 pound, 6’8 mountain of a man, stood by his side. He made Marcone, despite being just above average height, seem petite in comparison.

I stepped up to him, soaked and stark naked, and stopped a few yards from him, acting as if I wasn’t intensely uncomfortable about the whole situation. I would’ve taken a step closer if I hadn’t worried about Hendricks ripping me apart.

“What’s up?”

The Alphas came out of the shadows to my side. Marcone didn’t bat an eyelash at that.

“Mr Borden. Miss McAlister. I’ve been following your work around Chicago University’s campus.”

Billy took a step forward and I held out a hand.

“Don’t,” I said. “It’s alright. We’re going to have a nice little chat, all civilized, and then Marcone is going to go back to being a pimp, a drug dealer and a murderer.”

Marcone considered us all with polite interest, as if Billy and I had interjected something mildly informative in a discussion at city council meeting.

“Given your work the last few years, as well as tonight, I believe it’s fair to say neither of us have any interest in the agents of the Red Court roaming the city.”

“Fair enough,” I said. “You wanna do the team-up thing?”

“Obviously,” Marcone said. “Perhaps we should discuss this further at another venue.”

I shrugged.

“I’m good here.” I pitched my voice low enough that only he could hear. “Or am I making you uncomfortable, John?”

His smile was sharp and entirely without warmth or humour. “Hardly. I will assume you plan to continue to hunt these creatures. My people will contact you and share information to better enable you to do so.”

And with that, he turned his back on me and the Alphas, and walked off into the darkness. Now that all the excitement was over I was starting to shiver, and I quickly pulled my clothes on. The Alphas did the same.

“We could’ve taken him,” Billy muttered. “Imagine all the suffering we could’ve stopped if we took him down.”

“People want sex and drugs,” I said. “Doesn’t mean he isn’t scum for making money off them, but even if we had managed to take him down, someone worse would’ve replaced him.”

“And that’s if we could in the first place,” Georgia interjected in a reasonable tone. “Harry’s told us the guy isn’t someone we want to mess with.”

I nodded. “I’m betting he had shooters somewhere out there. They would’ve turned us to mince meat long before we’d gotten to him.”

Billy bit down on whatever reply he had for us and Georgia slung her arm around his waist. We walked back in silence for a while. Andi had walked up to Marci and was had an arm wrapped around her shoulder. She was whispering something to the shorter girl and winked at me.

“You’re right,” Billy said eventually. “But I don’t like it.”

“You shouldn’t. I don’t, either. He’s a piece of work, but we’re better off with him. For now.”

Billy gave me a grudging nod, and we kept on going, heading by Kirby’s apartment so that he could pick up his suitcase and be dropped off for his red-eye flight back home. Then we went to Georgia and Billy’s apartment and I picked up the Beetle, and headed over to Marci’s place.

Marci rushed on in ahead into the one-room apartment to a corner where a sleek computer with lots of bright green lights and other hi-tech looking things was waiting for her. She shut it down, unplugged it, and only then waved me inside.

We took turns in the shower and eventually ended up in the little nook that served as the living room. Marci and I had gotten dressed, but Andi still sat in a little towel tied around her bust and barely falling to her thighs. She’d prepared us each a glass of Jack and coke, and I sipped it slowly, enjoying the sweet sting.

Andi, by contrast, chugged down her entire glass. “I could get used to nights like these,” she said, reaching for the bottle and refilling.

“I’ll drink to that,” I said, raising my glass.

“To kicking ass,” Marci said, and we all clinked glasses.

Now that Andi had thrown the glove down, we rose to the challenge and chugged our own drinks, which were quickly refilled. I felt myself begin to relax a little, finally. Marci’s gaze kept on slipping to Andi’s towel-clad form and her cheeks were reddening prettily.

Smirking, Andi grabbed one of the empty bottles and placed it in the middle of our little improvised circle, and sent it spinning in a clockwise motion. It came to a stop between me and Marci, and Andi reached forward to spin it again.

She paused for a moment, on all fours, and I wasn’t about to object to that. Then she laughed softly. “Fuck it.”

She crawled over to Marci, as predatory as if she’d shifted into a wolf, and leaned in. Marci sat there, wide-eyed, breathing hard, and hesitated until Andi’s lips brushed hers. Marci’s eyes drifted shut. She let out a little whimper and met the kiss full on.

Like pretty much any guy would, I stared and had to admit to myself this was all pretty damn neat. They parted and Marci immediately pressed in for a second kiss, receiving a soft peck from Andi who then pulled back to leave the other girl dazed. She moved over to me, stretching to get level and resting her hands on my shoulders as she leaned in and kissed me.

Her lips tasted of whiskey and soda and as her tongue darted out, swiping lightly across my bottom lip, I felt a fresh wave of need flow over me. My fingers itched to grab her by the waist, to pull her up into my lap and-

I pulled out of the kiss, breathing hard, and Andi grinned up at me. With her heavy breathing and the towel only barely containing her breasts it was damn hard not to let my gaze wander too much.

Andi settled back in her spot. I took a sip of my drink for a bit of extra fortitude, and spun the bottle around.

“Miss me?” Andi asked as it landed on her. She crooked a finger my way and I dutifully made my way over, feeling a little bit silly, and promptly forgot all about it when Andi kissed me again. This time it wasn’t soft or tentative, but hot and demanding.

Marci cast me a look of inquiry as her friend grabbed the bottle, eyes a little wide, mouthing the words: “Are you okay with this?”

I inclined my head slightly in a nod.

Andi’s roll ended up on Marci, and Marci’s on Andi, and they exchanged increasingly hungry kisses with one another. Hands began to roam. At the end of the second kiss, Andi had Marci more or less in her lap, hands cupping her ass, while Marci’s fingers were clenched hard in the fluffy material of the towel.

Andi barely waited for the bottle to stop at me before advancing, straddling me and pressing in close. Her towel came undo and I could feel the warm press of her bare breasts through my t-shirt. She tied up the towel again as we parted, but she didn’t hurry, and we all got an eyeful just like she wanted.

The lust-driven haze cleared a fraction when my next spin landed on Marci and I saw her tense up. I frowned and settled on the floor by her, trying to force down the pounding need still dominating my thoughts. She’d been okay with Andi kissing her and hadn’t seemed to mind the two of us kissing, but now she looked like she might bolt.

So I leaned in over her and pressed a kiss to the top of her head and settled back on my spot. As I retreated, I saw her smile slightly.

“Come here, Andi,” I said.

I put the bottle away and settled in the middle of the carpet. A grinning Andi came over and she giggled as I lifted her up off the floor and into my lap so that she sat with her back to me, facing Marci. Over Andi’s shoulder, I raised two fingers, then pointed down at Andi. Marci licked her lips, hesitated for a moment, and nodded.

Then I reached for the towel and, in no great hurry, began to undo the little knot keeping it tied at her breasts.

“This is what you wanted, right?” I asked. “Both of us?”

Andi shivered as the towel fell down to pool in her lap. “Yeah.”

“You’ve always been greedy,” Marci said as she settled by us,one hand outstretched and frozen mid-air as if she couldn’t quite decide on what to do.

“Yeah, well, it’s paying off tonight isn’t it?”

I bit her shoulder where it joined the neck and Andi’s hips bucked forward against empty air, spilling the towels across the floors.

“I guess it is,” I said, cupping her breasts in my hands. I squeezed carefully. I mean, come on. It wasn’t like I wasn’t going to indulge now that I had the chance.

Andi reached up over her head, hands tangling in my hair.

“It’s still too long,” she muttered absently.

“At least the beard’s gone,” Marci said.

She was easing Andi’s thighs apart, kissing her way up them, each press of her lips at a closer interval than the previous.

“Come on,” Andi whimpered. “That’s unfair.”

“I know,” I said, without a trace of regret. “Isn’t it?”

I caught Marci’s eye as she looked up from between Andi’s thighs and winked at her. “How unfair do you think we should be?”

Marci went ahead with a few more kisses until she was just a fraction of an inch from her destination, and then stopped. She rested her cheek against Andi’s trembling thigh.

“Don’t rightly know,” she said, perfectly innocent but for the twinkle in her eyes. “She likes taking her time.”

“Oh?”

Marci ran her fingers gently through the sparse patch of red hair atop Andi’s sex. “We shared a dorm room the first year at college, you know.”

“You listened?”

Marci’s cheeks flushed a deeper red. “Maybe. A few times.”

“I never got to hear you,” Andi complained.

“I was raised a proper southern lady. I waited until you were asleep.”

“Unfair.” She pouted and I took the opportunity to kiss her. Andi moaned into my mouth I broke the kiss off long enough to see Marci carefully press the tip of her tongue against Andi’s sex.

I’ll admit my participation past that point was - uh - lacking. I stole a few kisses, but mostly, I just held on to Andi just watched Marci go. If I’d had a pen and pad I would’ve taken notes, because Marci really seemed to know what she was doing. Soon the red-head in my arms was thrashing about, hips undulating against Marci’s mouth. Like I said, I probably could’ve helped out more… But I had absolutely no regrets as I watched Andi’s body tighten into a bow, muscle pulled taut, eyes squeezed shut.

She was quiet as she came, letting a soft whimper slip past her lips as her body convulsed, and she pressed a hand down atop Marci’s light brown locks.

Marci pulled back and wiped her mouth off with the back of her hand. Andi snuggled up against my chest, reaching out until Marci took her hand, and pulling the other girl in close. She kissed her and blinked her eyes open with a slow, groggy smile.

“That… was awesome. Man I needed that.”

Marci looked down at her hands where they rested on her knees. “Uhm. It was nothing.”

“It was great. It’s totally true what they say about the quiet ones. Where did you learn that?”

Marci looked away and didn’t answer.

Andi straightened and got up, still settled between us, and turned to face me. She reached down and ran her fingers gently along the outline of my cock through my pants. Wrapping her other arm about Marci’s slender waist, she pulled the girl in close, kissing her as she stroked me.

“You guys are way too dressed,” Andi said. “Come on. I wanna return the favor.”

Marci froze for a second and I figured that was my cue. I winked at her. “I think it’s time for me to go for a walk.”

Andi turned and frowned. “What? No-”

“It’s okay,” Marci said. “I’m okay. Stay.”

“You sure?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Enough talking,” Andi said.

She pounced into Marci’s lap, pushing the girl back onto the ground and fumbling down her sweatpants. Once she’d managed to untangle them from Marci’s legs she looked back at me over her shoulder, with a coy, sultry smile. She began to kiss her way up along Marci’s thigh, raising her rear up invitingly, legs spread just enough to hint at her sex.

“Well?” She asked. “What’re you waiting for?”

I pondered that question for a second or two. What was I waiting for, really? Susan was gone. I didn’t need her permission to start living my life again. It was time to let loose and enjoy myself. If only for a night. I grabbed a condom, pulled my pants down, slipped it on, and moved in behind Andi.

There, I hesitated for a moment longer. Up until Marci let out a soft whimper at whatever Andi was doing to her. I paused for a moment, hand trailing up along the werewolf girl’s hip.

Susan was gone. She’d been gone for a while now. It was time to let go.

I guided myself into Andi.

A shudder passed down my body at the tight, slick heat of her and Andi drew a shivery breath as I slowly slipped inside of her, savouring every second.

It was one hell of a night. Andi was absolutely unrelenting and everything faded into a haze of intoxication and pleasure from that point onward I remembered it in blurry snapshots. Marci coming hard and often on Andi’s tongue, far more vocally than I would’ve expected. Andi coming a second time somewhere in between Marci’s second and third climax, with me following a few nanoseconds after.

I lay on the floor in a daze for a little while after that, head spinning and next I knew Andi settled astride me, grinding her slick sex against me. It didn’t take long for me to grow hard once more and Andi rode me relentlessly. I could hear Marci moaning, coming somewhere behind Andi, and a little while later she joined us, nimble fingers teasing at the red-head's clit until she stiffened atop me, thighs trembling as she squeezed them together, hands closed into fists.

Getting off of me, she took my still hard cock in her hand and stroked me until I spilled myself all over her fingers.

By the time we managed to drag ourselves to Marci’s little bed, the sun was coming up. I ended up in the middle, with Andi and Marci snuggled up on either side, using me as a pillow. It was pretty awesome. For ten minutes or so. Then my arms began to go numb.