Authors: Viola Grace
Tags: #Romance, #One Hour (33-43 Pages)
Chasing Carolyn: Book 4 of the Sisters of Silverwood
The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. Criminal copyright infringement, including infringement without monetary gain, is investigated by the FBI and is punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison and a fine of $250,000.
Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage the electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Chasing Carolyn: Book 4 of the Sisters of Silverwood
2008 Viola Grace
Cover art by Martine Jardin
All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.
Carolyn Sumner strode deliberately up the walk. She moved with purpose to the ancient and haunted house and raised her fist to knock on the door. Untouched by a human hand, the door swung open before her knuckles could make contact. “Tara! I need to use the basement!” Her announcement echoed in the entry way as she moved into the house.
Her paint splattered friend moved into her field of view, her head the only visible part of her in the hallway. “How long, Caro?”
“I have the running club in an hour, so thirty minutes of hard workout should do.”
“I will have tea ready when you are done.”
“Fantastic, see you soon.” Having Tara in the neighbourhood had been a godsend to Carolyn when her own conspicuous consumption of exercise equipment had begun to cause comment. Sixteen treadmills per year were a little above average for a single woman at home. Even if she had them replaced under warranty. Eventually, people stopped selling to her.
Tara, on the other hand, could purchase them under the guise of Williams Haunted House, and theoretically use them to power some of the special effects that her home was famous for. If only the public knew that the twice nightly performances of the haunted house were all Tara’s doing. That was her particular exercise for her telekinesis, floating objects toward and away from the squealing customers. It was win win. They got scared, and Tara got to be part of the community and use her talent in public.
“There you are my beauty.” The sleek lines of the treadmill were calling to her and, in mere seconds, she and the love of her life were reunited. She engaged in a light workout until she felt ready and the machine was warmed up, then she let go. Her legs pumped, feet pounded and the machine beneath her squeaked in protest. Regretfully, she slowed down. Sixty miles per hour was not something that the treadmill was designed to take.
“Well, this one isn’t smoking, so you must be using self control.” Tara had come downstairs and watched the end stages of her workout.
Caro caught the whiff of oil paint and smiled. “Have you been working on your masterpiece again?”
She was drying her hands on a towel. “No. Just some small pieces for a gallery in town. Fairy splats.”
“Oh. I like those, they’re cute.” Carolyn hadn’t even broken a sweat, her workout hadn’t even done much to warm her muscles up. Darn. She was going to have to hold back during the running club.
Tara laughed and threw a towel at Caro’s face. “Well, they sell well and that is what matters. I couldn’t keep you in treadmills if not for my modest art sales.”
“And I am grateful for your treadmills. They keep me from running through the woods and scaring the locals.”
“Sure. Like they could identify the streak of flesh colored human zipping through the shrubs. You are rather quick, you know.”
“I know. But I still worry about the freak factor.”
“Preaching to the choir. I know how you feel.” With not even a twitch of Tara’s eye, the towel on Caro’s head began to move and in seconds it was twirling through the air to snap her in the butt. Telekinesis at its most perverse.
“Tara. Sweetie. I love you, but towel snap me one more time and I am going to use my powers for evil. Shouldn’t you be painting right now?” The spot on her thigh stung where the towel had made contact. Revenge was now added to her to-do list.
“I am. I have completed one of the paintings since I came down to chat and started on the other. What have you been doing aside from running your mouth, slacker?” Tara ducked to avoid the towel that was no longer hovering, but now hurtling toward her out of her control. It was a mistake.
Caro lunged toward her buddy and made her move, a basic tickle attack that covered Tara from ribs to knees. “Kneel before me, insignificant one!” Her own laughter was hard to stifle and so they tumbled to the floor in a sprawl of shrieks and giggles.
It was five long minutes later before they separated and moved to opposite sides of the basement. Caro was panting as she stated, “You know, we might want to outgrow that sometime. It lacks a certain dignity.”
“And yet, it still takes up a goodly portion of time. We must work on that.”
“Yes. We must.” The giggles took her over again and it was only a few seconds before she realized that their visit was ending. “Oh crud. I need to get going.”
“Yup. Get out. The running club can’t start without you.”
“Fine. But I won the tickle fight.” Smiling to herself she made her way up the stairs. Time with Tara always relaxed her. It was so nice to be able to talk to someone who didn’t view her as a freak.
“Would you two freaks just get away from me!” The running club had gathered at the corner of Poplar and Oak just as it always did. The two new additions had greeted her warmly and, as she organized the running groups, they took up positions to be in her personal pack, a coveted position that only one other runner had dared to attempt. Sophie ran with the light and hobby runners, now that her leg had healed. The break had kept her out of the running club for eighteen months, and she now steered clear of any paths that took her near black cats.
Caro wasn’t running full out, just enough to make her look like a normal physically fit human. The boys were keeping up easily. Axom was on her left, his midnight hair carefully braided to his shoulders, and Ranal was on her left, his light brown hair rippling in the wind as he moved. They could run next to her and still talk, which was a clear indication of their paranormal origins. No local human could keep up with her and still keep up their end of a conversation, let alone two. If Artemis hadn’t called to give her the heads-up, she would have guessed that they were definitely not normal guys. They smelled like shape shifters. Big ones.
Of course, the slightly pointed ears also gave them away.
“Because one of us is your destiny and we want you to choose.” Axom was always the first to speak. His scent matched his eyes, those of a big cat. With his lean and tanned body, he moved with the lithe grace of a panther, even when getting some Gatorade.
“Choose what?” She was being obtuse. Her old camp counselor Artemis had explained everything, but she liked to test the honesty of the men that were courting her. It was her one shot after all. How often did destiny come into one’s life?
It was Ranal’s turn, “One of us.” He had the polar blue eyes of a Husky and the scent of a large dog. She was betting on werewolf.
“Fine, I choose Axom. Now go away.” Her abrupt announcement had them stumbling and she simply let her speed increase until she had left them in her dust. Finally, Caro was able to let her senses free and she smelled, tasted, heard everything that was within a mile of her location. Her awareness of the world had rocketed out of control the instant that she had her experience at camp.
The six other girls that she had spent her evenings with had grown up with different talents, but each just as strong in their own way. It was Tara who had let her know that the strangeness was not hers alone. They had kept in touch after Camp Silverwood and Caro had moved to be close to her friend as soon as financial circumstances would allow. Valentine and Holly had been the only other girls that they had been chatting with growing up, but recent conversations had filled in the missing time. Fiona, Westa and Hannah were all now living in the growing town of Silverwood with their new spouses and fiancés. Caro and Tara had known what was coming when Axom and Ranal had started to sniff around. It only took two days to find out which one of them they had come for. Caro tried to be flattered, but it was like broccoli, you know that it is good for you, but the idea is a little offputting, at least to her.
She slowed to a more normal speed when she reached the edge of the tree line and nodded to the police car that waited at the speed trap everyday for the commuters coming down the highway. Down the side of the road she trotted until she finally reached the starting-ending point of the running club.
“So, how did everyone do today, ladies and gentlemen?” She addressed the runners who had chosen the shorter pathways.
“We did very well. Where are your running partners?”
“They decided on a different path. Oh, look. Here they come.” The men were indeed showing evidence of the different path, and a fist fight. Axom was smiling while Ranal scowled in a most intimidating manner.
“Welcome back, lads. We thought you had been lost.” Sophie and the other runners were smirking at the two athletic males approaching them. It was obvious that they had been fighting, but not clear who had won as they both were moving at a solid clip.
“No, my dear Sophie, we did not get lost.” Axom once again spoke first.
“Shut up, you stupid cow.” Ranal was his normal charming self.
Carolyn decided to take steps. “All in favour of banning Ranal from the Running Club, say aye.” Caro raised her hand and counted the number of ayes in the crowd. The shout had almost deafened her. “That is sixteen ayes and two abstentions. Ranal, you are out.”
The elf had the grace to look shocked. “Why? Why must I leave the club?”
Caro fielded the question, “Because you are rude, a snot and you tend to insult people when you are feeling self-conscious. Not endearing traits. We are together in this group for support and enjoyment of running.” She crossed her arms over her breasts, “Get bent and get lost.”
With an armada of scowling faces looking at him, he had no choice but to beat a retreat. Carolyn felt a little sad, she hated to insult people in public, but there had been no other way to get the point across. Ranal had trouble taking a hint.
Watching his tight ass stride off made her slightly wistful for the lost opportunity, but she could not imagine her life with him, or even a night of fun. He didn’t seem the love’em and leave’em type. If she let him into her bed, he wouldn’t leave it without a forklift.
But now she was left with a purring lap cat in humanish form. Damned if you do…
When the cheerful club had disbanded and Caro was left with Axom, they squared off. “So, I have picked you, now what?”
“I begin to court you.” He gave her a devastating smile, his full lips stretching to expose his teeth. His very sharp white teeth. “Well, technically I have already begun.”
“You have? Did I miss something?”
“Proving my physical prowess with the running club.”
She thought about it for a moment, “Yeah, that was impressive, but I wasn’t running flat out.”
“Neither was I. I think a fair race with both of us in a relaxed environment free to use our talents would be much more entertaining.” His confidence was palpable.
“So, how big a cat are you?”
“Big enough.” His wink lent another meaning to his words.
To Caro’s horror, she blushed. “That wasn’t what I meant. Never mind.” She sighed and started to walk home, unsurprised when Axom fell into step beside her.
“Are you free tomorrow morning?”
“A traditional human date. Are you available?”
Human. Hmm. “Yes, you can pick me up at eight if you like.”
“That will suit me very well.” He offered her his arm, “May I escort you home?”
“After what I just had to do to Ranal, I would welcome the company. Thank you.” She took hold of his arm, absently admiring his musculature and the diffident way he kept himself between her and traffic.
They walked in companionable silence for a few minutes until it was broken by a harsh growl. The wolf bounded out of the wooded border next to the road and confronted them with hackles raised.
Carolyn dropped her escort’s arm and prepared to defend herself when a black panther suddenly moved between her and the wolf. So, this was Axom’s alter ego.
The two creatures squared off and crouched in silence and raised fur. She couldn’t call them animals, she knew them when they walked on two feet. Ranal was obviously wearing his other form, and since Axom was nowhere to be seen it was a good guess that her choice was walking on all fours. Either that or they were filming an episode of the Wild Kingdom in her area and had forgotten to post the notices.
“Is this strictly necessary?” She remained in her fighting stance, but if she could stop whatever was about to happen, she wanted to.
Neither animal answered, but both tails lashed, almost in unison. It was a clear yes. Answering to some signal that only they could detect, they charged at each other. There were flashing fangs and flying fur everywhere.
Ranal seemed to be a stress shedder. Clumps of grey fur were littering the grass as the creatures rolled and grappled for supremacy. A harsh yelp and a brutal growl a few minutes later, and the wolf was running back through the brush, the panther in hot pursuit.
Carolyn stood bemused, her feet almost nailed to the ground. What the hell had just happened? If she was not mistaken, that had been a fight for her hand. Weird. Shaking herself into a more alert state of being, she headed home.
She had only made it approximately half a block when Axom reappeared next to her, once again extending his arm. Sighing deeply, she took it. “Was that truly necessary?”
“For Ranal it was. He cannot simply leave because the female rejected him. He needed to be defeated.” His voice was calm, his stride sure and the musk surrounding him was glaringly obvious to her. He had worked up a sweat.
“I thought it would take you longer to shift forms, you were really quick.” She tried to keep her voice calm, it wasn’t easy when her hormones were surging to the fore. The musk coming off of him was driving her nuts, she must be going into heat again. Damn it.
“The transformation speed depends on the magic in the area. With no source to draw on, it is likely that it took Ranal much longer than it took me.”
“I am that source?”
“You are indeed. Your magic manifests in your physical form, your skills, your speed, hearing and other senses.” He patted the hand on his arm in a comforting manner.
Including her propensity to go into heat, but she wasn’t sharing that particular with him. She wasn’t due for a full on scream until the end of the week. Caro tended to go bonkers twice a year, though lately it had been growing more frequent. “You feed off
that? I am not sure that I like the sound of being a living battery.”
“It is not that I feed off you, but that you give out energy, like the sun or moon.”
“Passive exposure gets you charged?” She meant to put in a double entendre, but he seemed to miss it.
“Indeed, Ranal had tried to get close to you on several occasions, but you moved away from him and withheld your positive energy from him. He could not gain additional power or skills, so he knew he was not your choice before you shunned him.”
“It was not a surprise? So why the attack on you?”
“It was form, as I said. Wolves challenge each other for mates, not the mate themselves.”
She smiled at that thought. “It would be slightly counterintuitive to beat one’s prospective mate to death.”
He chuckled at that, “Indeed.”
They had reached her street and passed Tara’s home on the corner. Her friend was waving on the porch, looking both surprised and smug. A light pink daisy flew from her garden to land in Caro’s hair. Carolyn chuckled.
“Your friend, Tara?”
“Yeah, and the only hesitation I have about leaving this town to take up residence in Silverwood.”
“We will discuss that at a later time. You don’t need to think about leaving today.” He drew her arm closer to him and gave her a light squeeze.
“Thank you for that. This is my home.” She turned and removed her hand from his possession. “I will say good evening to you then, Axom.”
“And I will see you tomorrow morning for our date.” He retrieved one of her hands and lifted it gently to his lips. The rasp of his tongue on the back of her hand had her shivering and he left her with a wink and a smile.
Dear god, he had a cat’s tongue in human form. Keeping up her self control would be almost impossible. And there was another question, what would an elf do on a first date?