A long howl split the night, two voices, one leading. Ro and
Con. Nick pushed with both paws. Chanah landed flat and Nick
jumped over her, a vanishing gold flash in the silver light of porch
and moon. She’d bitten her tongue. Chanah tasted her own blood
and raised her head to see Edya, eyes glowing in the light from the
porch. Chanah shook her head to clear it. “What happened?”
“It’s not safe to touch a werewolf on the full moon. The instincts—
running, hunting prey, killing things, being free. You
held onto him.”
“He bit me.” Chanah’s tongue grew thick and sore.
“The bites bind you both. I could free you if you want.” The
demon shivered and rubbed bare arms. From the ground Chanah
found herself too aware, the demon’s shining skin. She wondered
how it would feel to run one finger from bare shouldered bodice
top down past the demon’s elbow to the wrist.
Shit, Edya’s getting to me! “Uh, are you doing something on
purpose here or is it an accident?”
Edya’s delicious pomegranate smile never reached the eyes.
“Maybe you’ve just discovered your true sexual orientation. It’s
been known to happen.”
Fear, a thin knife-edge. Edya’s magic, too effective. Right now
Chanah wanted nothing more than to kiss those red lips, touch
Edya’s skin. “Oh, cut it out. If you have to be seductive, at least
be a man about it…for my sake.”
Sherry King 169
Edya’s smile was real this time. “If I turned myself into your
dream man, you’d never resist me. Even as Ro’s dream woman,
I’m doing a good job.” She ran a pale index finger down from bare
shoulder to wrist, just as Chanah had imagined doing.
Chanah blushed. Dream man—still Nick.
The demon’s look softened and she swatted at some insects
buzzing past, attracted by the porch light. The mundane act eased
the effect she had on Chanah. “Don’t feel bad, sweetie, it’s because
you’re so psychic. Demon magic affects you more. Doesn’t mean
you desire me. Although if I weren’t with my she-wolf I’d love to
give it a try. If you’re willing and not pining for Nick.”
“The minister at my old church called me demon possessed.”
“No, you’re not. Although I’m sure many incubi would love to
possess your sweet psychic ass. I do apologize for entrancing you.
I’ll try to tone it down. The full moon affects me too, I think.”
Raw, turned inside out and exposed. “I’d rather be a demon
like you than a human like the minister.”
“You’ve had a shock, Witch Daughter. Let’s get you inside. Too
much moonlight’s not good for little psychics.” Edya helped Chanah
up with a strength at odds with her delicate appearance.
Once inside, Edya found some ice cubes in the kitchen and
used half in a plastic bag to soothe the bump on Chanah’s lip and
the other half to mix up a stinging frozen margarita batch with
four fresh squeezed limes, powdered sugar, a shameless amount
of triple sec and tequila.
Chanah wasn’t sure who supported who when she brought
Madame Zola down for a little nightcap.
Madame Zola demanded to know what had happened and
eyed Edya askance until Chanah explained. “You always did make
a good margarita, Eddy,” she conceded after she’d taken the first
sip, giving Edya a softer look.
“This is fun,” Chanah said. The bumped lip not the only reason
she slurred—Chanah dabbed at Nick’s bite with a tissue, getting
an odd thrill each time she touched it. The first bite hadn’t
170 The Stray
been this intense, so sexual. No foreplay with this one.
Somehow, she, Edya and Madame Zola got to playing Go Fish,
which, given Chanah’s restricted upbringing, turned out to be the
only card game she knew. She won, though. Pretty good, considering
the stories about gambling with the devil, or a demon.
The demon’s drunk. Chanah watched Edya sway. Wait. Chanah
steadied herself on elbows, and the other woman continued
to wobble. Good. Chanah threw down the cards. The game had
gotten too hard. “I quit.”
Drinking seemed to have loosened Edya up, so maybe she
could ask some real questions without getting a sexual whammy.
Madame Zola might help, too. She must know something.
Chanah liked Edya, but she wanted to know just what danger she
represented. “How did you get here?” Chanah asked. “Were you
born to demon parents or did someone summon you?”
Edya stopped pouring herself another drink and just stared,
Madame Zola grinned. “You always told me you were summoned
by an evil mage, Eddy. True?”
Edya relaxed and took a big swallow. “Yes. The human made
me his slave, forcing me to punish those who displeased him.
Many years later he died and I became free.”
Chanah pushed for more. “What was it like where you were
“A big blue nothing. Different from here. My first clear memories
are from the years I served the mage after I left that realm.
Some recollections are not pleasant. The things the mage did to me
and made me do to others would not please you, Witch Daughter.
Not self aware—an animal or maybe an infant—after he died, I
roamed the world, forming attachments where I might, always
trying to avoid sucking my lovers dry.” Edya’s gaze focused on
Madame Zola. “I couldn’t stay too long with any one person. I
had no wish to leave corpses behind. Once I had three human
lovers together and they stayed with for me for many years until
they died—human age.”
Sherry King 171
“You loved them,” Chanah said.
“I love them all. Edya looked away from Madame Zola and
down at the drink. She took another swallow. “They are the lighted
matchsticks I hold to heat my heart, and I am the cold coins
weeping over their eyes when they are dead.”
“Wow,” Chanah said. It seemed very profound somehow,
but she couldn’t make the mental connections with everything
Edya’s eyes looked huge.
Madame Zola guffawed. “Count me out, Eddy. I never did
get your poetry, and I don’t want any coins unless you give them
to me now.”
“You’ll have to win them, fair and square,” the demon answered,
indicating the playing cards on the table.
“Uh-uh. No more Go Fish for me. I’m not used to staying up
so late. I’m off to bed.”
Chanah didn’t like the way Edya affected Madame Zola. Anger
and loss had appeared in Madame Zola’s voice. “Do you want
me to help you up the stairs, MZ?”
“You’re in worse shape than I am, Dearie.”
Madame Zola’s chuckle made Chanah feel better, like everything
might turn out all right. Staying here, Nick nearby,
blunted the fear.
Mustn’t forget someone hates me.
“Eddy, you big womanizer, behave yourself around Chanah!”
Chanah watched Madame Zola progress up the stairs, telling
herself she could be coordinated and fast enough run and catch
the older woman if she fell. Just drunk enough to believe it.
Edya didn’t look at Chanah, stared hard at the abandoned
Go Fish hands.
Chanah poked a finger at Edya. She wanted the demon to
talk. Maybe she’d get all flowery again. “Wait a minute. If you
need more than one, how can you be exclusive with Ro?”
“I pick someone who doesn’t matter—someone I won’t want
172 The Stray
long term—and get them off. Make them think they dreamed
Chanah leaned forward and put a hand on Edya’s wrist. “Ro
knows?” Chanah couldn’t imagine Ro sharing a lover with others.
Information came. “She knows. It’s how she got pregnant?”
Edya snatched her hand away. “Stay out of my brain, Witch
Unbalanced, Chanah fell off the chair. The demon sounded
scary. Pulse racing, Chanah tried to apologize, but it came
out slurred around her cut lip and they both giggled as Chanah
struggled back into the chair.
“So you’re the daddy.” The demon, easier to read than most
people. Even drunk, Chanah had to work at not reading Edya’s
“The daddy is someone who doesn’t matter,” Ro said. “I became
a woman with him and a man with Ro. Sperm passed though
demon methods is always viable always makes a baby no matter
if the woman is a werewolf. I’ve made a human woman quicken
with frog’s get.” She frowned. “It wasn’t pretty. The man who
summoned me here used such games to punish his enemies. It’s
the magic.” She beamed. “Thanks to me, this baby will be perfect,
no matter what genetic incompatibilities or faults the other
two parents may have.”
Chanah remembered Nick’s fears that Con was the father.
“What if the parents are brother and sister?”
The demon turned pale. “I swear to you, I didn’t. I appeared
to the brother, Con, as a dream one night before I knew Ro and
I were serious, but ever since that I take my snacks outside the
house. And I do not make accidental babies. The magic must be
deliberate and careful. This baby’s father is a pretty man with
hair and eyes like Ro’s. Not the beautiful brother with black hair
and milk skin. Not the blond brother either.” She shot Chanah
a sharp look.
Chanah shivered. “That’s not what Con thinks. Now I understand
my vision from my first day here. Con remembers Ro’s
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scent on his pillow along with sex traces. He thinks that he is
somehow Ro’s baby’s father. It’s tearing him up inside. You still
haunt his dreams.”
The demon gasped. “I went from Ro’s bed into Con’s so I
could have Ro again next day without putting her in danger from
my hunger. I forgot the werewolf senses. He would scent Ro on
me, on himself the next day, but I leave behind little trace, even
to a werewolf’s nose. Oh, Chanah, not in a hundred years have I
made such an important error! Ro will hate me!”
“You have to tell them both what happened.”
“Who asked for your advice, psychic?”
Chanah and Edya glared at each other.
“You did,” Chanah gasped. “At least, I know, you meant
e demon giggled, then looked at Chanah again, intent.
“Soon our wolves will return. You have given me unasked for
advice like a true meddling friend. Now I will give you the same.
Nick, you love him.”
Chanah opened her mouth to protest, but the demon waved
a hand for silence and went on.
“I’m not psychic, but I know he desires you. I’m sure you will
be in each other’s arms soon with such hunger on both sides. But
he is not human, and psychic or not, you have human strength,
human tastes, human intelligence. He is not like you. His instinct
in a fight will always be to dominate.” She smiled, looking reminiscent.
“You do not strike me as the submissive type. I fear he
will break you, little Witch Daughter.”
“Nick’s not like that. Not like—” Just in time Chanah bit
back the words. No need to let Edya know Nick didn’t seem as
committed to the established pack pecking order as his sister. If
it got back, Ro might see it as disloyalty.
“I killed many humans before I understood my needs and
how they affected my lovers. Some I killed at my old master’s
command; some in my own blundering way. I may kill again
someday if I forget my lessons or become enraged. Your Nick
174 The Stray
has it in him to be a killer also. Ro feels responsible for your
Nick and all he does. Ro expects him to obey her as if she were
God’s own angel.”
“Nick has to work hard to control his instincts. But he’s not
a killer.” Chanah paused. “I don’t think he’s the submissive type
either, no matter what Ro thinks.”
“Indeed. But that is between them. I have no desire to stick
my fingers into this particular pie. Nor should you. They might
be bitten off.”
Raw and angry, Chanah took a big drink of slushy Tequilaflavored
ice at the bottom of the glass. “More friendly advice?”
“Yes.” Edya spoke without sarcasm.
Edya—trying to help. Sentimental tears pricked at Chanah’s
eyelids. She blinked and snuffled into a paper napkin. “Well,
thanks. I’ll think about that.” She grinned. “You should start
a fertility clinic. Give the couples harmless vitamins or something,
then visit the women in their husbands’ forms and get
“You forget, I appear as someone’s dearest wish. Few dream
of husbands. If I took another form I’d be blackening their consciences.
I’m careful not to offend the church sacraments. Just in
case. If I exist might not angels also? And God? I have no experience—
God or Satan. I’ll not sleep with those I know are married,
if I have any choice.” She dimpled. “I usually do have a choice.”
“I bet.” Chanah found herself smiling too.
“Theology aside, it never seemed sporting to take some poor
man or woman’s only lover when I can catch anyone on my little
“Is it little…when you’re a man, I mean?” Chanah—shocked—
flirting with Edya.
“Not unless that’s what my partner looks for in a lover.”
“What do you look for?”
“I like them to be alive.”
No kidding. Chanah rolled her eyes.
“I am not joking. The life burning inside interests me. The
Sherry King 175
soul’s force. Sometimes it comes with youth and beauty, sometimes
not. Zoey—your Madame Zola is a unique essence. Ro burns
with life like no one I have ever seen. Ro’s art and her werewolf
nature combine to make an incandescent flame. I am her moth.
She is strong-willed and prickly, but she has what I need in abundance.
Her heat is life to me.” Edya’s expression saddened. “I like
my lovers to be alive because I am not.”
“You eat and breathe. You look alive.”
“Ah, but am I? Or is this body with its heartbeat, breath and
blood just a pretty trap to lure in food—a meat-eating jungle
flower? What am I, Witch Daughter? Tell me.”
“Well.” Chanah tried to sort the thoughts. “You have a mind.
You decide your own actions. Your body appears to breathe. Your
heart beats. That’s all I can know for sure about anyone, myself
included. I’d say you’re as alive as anyone else.” She took a deep
breath. “Just different. Really different,” Chanah guffawed, drunk
and amused at being treated as an oracle by Edya.
“Why you—!” Edya picked some slush from her drink and
flung it at Chanah. Some landed on Chanah’s neck, and she shivered
at the delicious feel, the ice melting against Nick’s bite.
Edya stared. As if propelled, she stood and glided toward
Chanah. “Your craving,” Edya whispered, almost against Chanah’s
lips. “It calls to my hunger.”
Edya’s breath flickered warm on Chanah’s mouth.
Chanah gasped and stood, knocking over the chair. They
Chanah’s heart, trying to escape her chest. “It’s not you,”
Chanah managed to say.
The demon’s lips brushed Chanah’s again.
Chanah jerked her head to the side. Somehow it seemed
wrong to step away, an admission that might trigger the hunter
“You deny this yearning for your Nick, and now it’s almost
too strong for me to resist,” Edya purred in full seduction mode.
She whispered in Chanah’s ear, “Have a care, Witch Daughter.
176 The Stray
We both have much to lose if this game is misplayed.”