Solenna and Alek stayed the winter in Snowmelt. From the description of the local, they didn’t have much choice. Solenne never complained in their many letters, stating that the grounds held a great many useful and interesting medicinal plants. They returned to Boxon in the spring, just as Luis and Miles left for the West Lands on the other side of the mountains.
Charlotte remained the mistress of Chambers farm, despite the best efforts of her sister-in-law and Jase to contest in court. She might not have been married long enough for the ink to dry on the license, but she was legally married to Lionel Chambers, and he left no will. Why would he, after all, when he lacked the humility to imagine his own mortality?
She felt there was a witty comment to be made about death caring not for hubris, but the simple matter was Lionel felt himself unstoppable. Going through his private papers, Charlotte learned that when he was still newly enlisted in the military, he received the bite from his commanding officer. The presence of his master–she loathed that word–an military discipline kept the young wolf under control. Together they hunted creatures like themselves and looted the relics of old hunter families.
Alek had read the papers, too. Something like recognition flared in his eyes but whatever connection he made, he kept it to himself.
Married and made a wealthy widow on the same day, Charlotte struggled with her new responsibilities and her new social position. Everyone in the village had an opinion, which they freely traded with each other. The vile accusations Mrs. Parkell flung against Charlotte in court–all of which were published in the broadsheets–did not help. She struggled to maintain a soft heart. Mrs. Parkell and Jase were just as betrayed by Lionel as she. In that spirit, she continued the allowance Lionel established for the pair and covered Jase’s university tuition and expenses.
Charlotte half expected Jase to resume his flirtatious overtures, now that she was wealthy enough to support him in the manner he believed he deserved. She quickly shut that nonsense down.
A year and a day later, Luis and Miles returned from the West Lands.
The man who climbed off his horse and strode across the courtyard was not the unsure young man who left. Time and the trial of the journey had changed Luis in more than physical appearance, but that had changed considerably, as well. His frame had filled with thick, solid muscle and exposure to the elements turned his complexion a golden tan.
Luis moved with confidence and Charlotte hesitated to know exactly how many skirmishes had tested him along the way. Miles appeared equally worn but he beamed at Luis like he hung the stars.
The entire household and then some had gathered in the courtyard to welcome the returning travellers. Godwin paced impatiently. Charlotte, who had spotted Luis and Miles, on the road, had dashed through the woods with the news of their return. Sweat clung to the small of her back and she did her best to mop up her brow.
Solenne gripped Alek’s hand and Charlotte averted her eyes, ignoring the pangs of jealousy.
Her friend pointed to the sun dipping near the horizon. “And what kind of time do you call this? You’re late.”
Luis crushed his sister into an embrace. Even from her distance, Charlotte smelled the distinct aroma of sweat, horse and leather.
“Gah, you smell disgusting,” Solenne muttered, her face pressed into his chest.
“I missed you, too,” Luis said. “Are you shorter?” He pushed her away, hands on her shoulders. “You’re shrinking. Must be all the magic. I do not approve.”
“It’s not magic,” she said, knocking his hands away, “and you’re a giant now. Everyone is shrinking from your vantage.”
“Mystical werewolf bond magic.” Luis wiggled his fingers.
Solenne laughed, sounding so pleased to have her brother back.
Luis and Miles made the rounds, embracing and slapping everyone they saw, including Travers who stood motionless, enduring the hug.
“Well?” Solenne asked. “Did you find Blackthorn?”
Luis gave a dramatic yawn. “We’ve been traveling for days—”
“Only because you were so excited to be near home that you refused to rest,” Miles interrupted.
“Days, without pausing to eat or sleep,” Luis continued, as if he could not hear Miles. “I’d like a bath and a meal. Then we can talk.”
Miles rolled his eyes. “Draven has the sword. Apparently he’s been waiting for someone to come and fetch it.”
“So you have it?” Alek asked.
Luis shook his head. “He wants a trade that I was not qualified to make.”
“What does the vampire demand?”
“A bride,” Luis answered.
The crowd fell silent. The Marechals looked at each other, like the battle had been lost before a single shot had been fired.
“I suppose that’s that,” Godwin mumbled.
“Yes. I said I’d send word but how could we ask—” Luis trailed off.
“An interesting fellow but an unreasonable demand,” Miled added.
That family. Charlotte loved them but they lacked imagination and had a disturbing forgetfulness when it came to history. They squabbled amongst themselves, demanding to know the terms of the negotiation or if Luis just accepted the terms without protest. Luis refused to discuss until he had a bath. The more details Godwin and Solenne demanded to know, the longer Luis’s list of demands grew.
Alek and Miles watched the exchange, amused and exhausted.
“I’ll go,” Charlotte said.
No one heard her.
“I will go,” she repeated, raising her voice to an unlady like decibel.
The family turned as if one entity, as if they just noticed her presence.
“No,” Solenne said. “Out of the question. You’re not giving yourself to a blood drinker. They’re dangerous—
“Don’t be ridiculous. Send me. This is what I do, isn’t it,” Charlotte retorted. “I marry monsters.”
Copyright 2020 Nancey Cummings
What? That’s the end?
The edited and revised version of Hunted by Moonlight will be published in December 2020 under the title Wolf’s Bane.
I hope you’ve enjoyed Alek and Solenne’s journey. When I started, I had an vague idea and a desire to write something to make me smile in this clusterfuck of a year. So that’s why it’s Jane Austen with werewolves and lost human colonies with failing tech and magic swords and villains who twirl their mustaches.
Let me know what you think. Is the conclusion satisfactory? Want more? What about Charlotte? I have plans for her but I’m not sure if it’ll be another serial. Honestly, I’m looking for reader feedback before I make a decision on which way to go.
So give me your thoughts!
Coming December 26th!
Hunted by Moonlight has a new name and a new cover!
The final version will be available in all the major stores on December 26, 2020.
Additional scenes (yes, the sex scenes) will be included, especially what happened on page 72!