Fern clutched her bleeding hand and rocked. It couldn’t happen, not to her. She wasn’t some rabid animal.
The guards, spotting the blood, backed away from her. Two or three pointed their rifles at her. A buzz ran through the crowd of gardeners around her.
“She’s going to turn.”
“Throw her out.”
“She’s a half-breed. Do those turn?”
“Remember last time?”
Mom hugged her tight. “It’s going to be okay.”
Robiel crawled closer to her. “I’ve got an idea,” he whispered. He glanced farther into the town, toward the jail. “If the werewolf bites you, it might counteract the werecat’s saliva.”
The mayor, a tall man with a balding forehead, strode through the crowd. “What’s going on here?”
“They kidnapped the half-breed boy. The girl got bit by a werecat,” a guard said.
“Get her to the jail, now.” The mayor waved his arms.
“You heard him.” A young guard pointed his rifle at Fern. It shook in his hands.
“Take care of our uncle,” Fern whispered to Mom. She pried her mother’s hands from her shirt.
A half-dozen guards circled around her, too afraid to come close. Fern clutched her bleeding hand to her chest. Every option she had was awful.
“On your feet,” an older guard said.
Fern climbed to her feet, and the guards herded her to the jail. None of them came close enough to touch her.
When she stepped into the office, Barry scrambled to his feet and tried to look like he hadn’t been asleep again.
The older guard followed Fern through the doorway. The others hung back, afraid to be in a confined space with a potential werecat.
“She’s been bitten. You need to get her locked up,” the old guard said.
Barry squinted. “Bitten by what? That monster dog of Robiel’s?”
Barry’s eyes shot wide. “I’ll put her in the cell.” He led them to the back of the jail and opened the cell next to Thorne’s.
Fern stumbled to a hard bench. She sat on it and hugged her knees.
Barry closed the door. “Sorry about this. I’ll get a blanket for you.” He left Fern alone in the shadowy cell.
Tears blurred her vision. She tried wiping them away but more took their place. Ash was gone, and she’d be turning into a monster with the next new moon. God, please help me, she prayed.
“You got bitten?” Thorne demanded.
Fern looked up.
Thorne peered through the bars of his cell, his golden eyes narrowed. “What bit you?”
Fern scooted away. “A werecat.” She held up her bloody hand. Robiel’s idea came back to her. “Robiel said maybe a werewolf bite could counteract it.”
Thorne lifted a hand and scratched his ear. “It’s a long shot. It works on vamp bites but they turn into werewolves. No one knows what happens to a half-breed bitten by both shifter species.” He knelt by the bars. “Stick your hand through. I’ll be gentle as I can.” A shudder tore through Thorne. Fur flowed from his head to tail and grew over his leather vest. Soon, a gray wolf the size of Robiel’s dog stood in front of her.
Fern huddled against the bars on the other side of the cell, as far away from Thorne as she could get. Though Thorne’s fur was gray, not brown like Mitch’s, that bloody night came back to her.
Thorne stood still, completely in control, not a raging monster. “It’s okay.” Even though he’d shifted forms, Thorne’s words came out clearly. “Hold out your arm.”
Fern shook her head. “Maybe the cat bite won’t make me turn. It’s only a scratch.”
“It will,” Thorne said. “The guy I bit only had two tooth marks, but he turned within hours.”
Tears blurred Fern’s vision. “What if I kill someone?” Thorne was a pureblood, a werewolf born that way. If Fern shifted, she’d be a halfblood like Mitch.
Thorne pressed his huge head against the bars. “If you turn, I’ll do everything I can to be there for you. You won’t be alone. I’ll help you through it. I won’t let you hurt anyone.”
God, please give me wisdom. What choice did she have? If there was any chance this would cure her, she had to take it. She scooted to the bars and put her arm through. She closed her eyes.
Thorne’s teeth sank into her flesh.
Fern cried out and pulled away. Four holes from his canine teeth had punctured her arm. Blood dripped from the holes and mingled with the drying blood on her hand.
Thorne shifted back to human form just as Barry burst through the door. “Is he hurting you?” He held a blanket in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Fern shook her head and clutched her bleeding arm to her chest. “I’m okay.”
Barry glared at Thorne as he approached. He shoved the blanket through the bars. “You don’t look okay.”
Fern took the blanket. “I’m fine.” She prayed Barry would leave.
Barry glared at Thorne. “You do anything to that little girl, and I’ll shoot you where you stand. This gun’s loaded with silver, you know.”
“I’m no animal,” Thorne growled.
Barry glared at Thorn for a couple minutes, then turned to Fern. “I’m really sorry about what happened,” he said, then turned and left the room.
“How did this happen?” Thorne asked.
Fern told Thorne about the riders taking Ash.
“Fort Roland,” Thorne barked. “I didn’t realize they’d come this far south. They must have heard about you two.” He paced. Even in human form, he looked like a caged animal.
“Robiel will find a way to get you out.” What about her though? Thorne had it easy. Once he went free, he’d be able to survive. Werewolves could kill any vamp they encountered, but a half-breed girl? She’d be ripped to pieces the second she set foot in the forest, and if she did survive, she’d be the one ripping people apart. Fern shrank back against the cell wall. The best place for her was here, caged where she’d be unable to hurt anyone when she shifted.