Until they were drawn into another world, Jasmine was unaware that her friend Wiley was special. Wiley is promised to the ruler of a wererace called the Haunt, a dangerous and proud race. Keilor is the commander of soldiers and well know as man not to be crossed, yet even he had never come face-to face with a torment such as the little brunette his princess calls friend. Is it possible for Jasmine to locate the portal to take her home, or will she acquire a werewolf to call her own?
"Wait a minute, Lemming! Let me catch my breath," Jasmine gasped as she clutched a slender poplar for balance. A shower of bright leaves and water peppered her head and shoulders as the tree swayed. For a moment, her vision blurred and her legs trembled, but she stiffened them to wait out the asthma attack. The painful tightness in her chest nagged at her.
Grumbling, she dug out her inhaler and took a couple puffs. She hated resorting to medicine. Every couple of days it seemed, the TV would announce that people were getting cancer from some drug or another. Her favorite ads were the ones for male impotence that announced in fine print that the side effects included impotence. Next they'd announce that inhalers caused black lung.
She shook her head at her imagination and shoved the inhaler deep in her pocket.
There was no sense being morbid.
Lemming trotted over to her, tail wagging, and sat gracefully at her feet. The black and white Border collie was used to such stops, but unlike her companion, she still had energy to burn.
Jasmine inspected a large rock that had washed free of the sticky clay, looking for ants. Satisfied, she shifted the holstered pistol on her hip and sat down gingerly. Cold seeped into her jeans from the lichen covered stone, even with the extra layer of long johns underneath. She ignored it and took in the view.
Densely wooded Alaskan hills rolled away in the distance without a sign of civilization. Autumn had hung her gold coins from every birch and cottonwood as far as the eye could see, and the golden wash of late evening sunlight showed them to their best advantage. Even the dark spruce covering the gentle slopes were sprinkled with the bright leaves.
She glanced at her watch, her breath frosting in the chill air. It was 7:44 P.M, and it would start getting dark soon. This late in September, it could snow at any time. Too bad it wasn't June. If it were then she wouldn't have to worry about the darkness at all, since the sun never set during the height of summer.
She stood and hefted her pack, her lungs giving a tired protest. To cheer herself, she counted her blessings. She could have been born allergic to chocolate, or dogs. She glanced at Lemming affectionately.
Come to think of it, if she'd been allergic to dogs, she wouldn't have to be out here.
Suppressing a groan, she pushed herself to her feet and started out again. Wiley better have something hot on the fire, or there would be war. The least her friend could do after coaxing her into the boonies was to make camp.
Rapidly losing steam, she trudged up the trail, really little more than a brushy track, noting the moose nuggets and cloven hoof prints in the soft turf without enthusiasm. She didn't fancy running into an irate cow with a calf. She didn't want to spend the evening stuck in a Mexican standoff while the cow tried to decide if she was worth trampling or better off ignored.
While she was looking down she noticed the bounty of cranberry bushes. It really was a shame she didn't have the energy to stop and pick some. They were plentiful this year and she could use a good batch of cranberry bars.
Hey, while she was dreaming, how about a hot date, an end cut of the Turtle Club's prime rib and a dry pair of socks?
Or maybe she should be dreaming about a hot date for Wiley, she thought with disgust. She scanned the brush-covered hillside. If her friend and roommate paid more attention to her love life then maybe she wouldn't feel the need to run off to the woods at a moment's notice. It was all great and well if Wiley had the itch to commune with nature, as long as she didn't drag her friends into it.
The only itch Jasmine felt were the ones left by the hordes of gnats and mosquitoes. It was almost pointless using repellent--the mosquitoes mistook it for ketchup and came back for seconds.
Lemming barked from somewhere up ahead, signaling that she'd found Wiley's camp. Jasmine's head came up and she eagerly picked up her pace. In a minute she'd be sipping hot cocoa and roasting herself in front of a fire. Wiley would sweet talk her with chili and she'd forget she'd just spent the last hour stomping through the woods.
She entered the mossy clearing where Lemming waited and stopped, confused. It was empty.
Later, as Jasmine nursed a cup of cocoa by a fire she'd had to make herself, she tried to figure out what could have happened. At first she'd circled the area, calling Wiley's name and trying to find evidence as to her recent occupation. It occurred to Jasmine that her friend had played a trick, maybe hid higher on the hill and grinned as she watched Jasmine wade through stickers and brush. It wasn't like her to make Jas worry, though.
As full dark descended, she had known Wiley wasn't playing a game. Something had happened to her friend, and it was too dark to make her way back to the Jeep to get
help. If Wiley had tumbled down a hill, it would be no help to her if Jasmine got lost herself. Instead she tried to reason out what might have happened.
Wiley might take off at a moment's notice on her perverse games of hide and seek, but she always left a map, and she never strayed from it. If she said she was going to be forty-five minutes east of the Dalton Highway that's where they'd find her. Or rather, Lemming would find her, and Lemming always found her quarry.
She glanced at the search and rescue dog Wiley had trained from a pup. Lemming rested quietly at Jasmine's side with her chin on her paws, content with a job well done. Jasmine had tried to get her to keep tracking, but she'd only sat down, looked at her in confusion, and thumped her tail once. As far as she was concerned, her job was over.
Jasmine sighed and scratched an itch under her black Road Runner stocking cap.
She was worried, but tried not to dwell on it. It wouldn't help the situation. Besides, there might be a good explanation for this.
She noticed a sticker bush twig in Lemming's fur. Gently, she removed it and flicked it into the coals. So now what? She didn't plan to stay in grizzly and wolf infested woods any longer then she had to. At first light she'd pack up and go for help. Maybe if she kept her eyes open she'd see signs of her friend.
She coughed as smoke suddenly blew into her face and moved around the fire.
Well, there was nothing more she could do right now, and she was tired of having the fire roast her front end while the cold air behind froze her rear. Time to crawl into her tent, shuck down to her long johns and hope she wouldn't have to shiver too long before the down sleeping bag warmed up. Though come to think of it, the night almost seemed to be getting warmer.
Scoffing at her wishful thinking, she stood and kicked dirt over the fire. That's when she saw them.
Freaky, glowing golden eyes. Lots of them.