Chapter Ten

            It’s difficult to qualify how well Penny adapted to life as a werewolf. On the one hand, he was very controlled as a wolf. He managed not to kill any people, which was a win in both of our books, but he couldn’t play baseball anymore, and basically refused to leave his bedroom. Most people thought he was depressed because Isaac Smith, the guy who went missing with him, was never found. General consensus was that he’d be better once school started, but even then he refused to talk to anyone, and was soon as much of an outsider as I was.
            I let him hide out until December, and then I forced him to start coming with me to hunt creatures. He didn’t always want to go, but I’d get him on board with a little persuasion. Not that kind of persuasion. That last time in my office was the closest we’d come to having sex since he became a werewolf.
Anyway, besides the depression, he was usually okay. A little volatile before his time of the month, but nothing like how he was this full moon, making it even more important that I made contact with the werewolf pack. Maybe they could help.
            Penny was out of commission for four days—waxing gibbous, full moon, waning gibbous, and a day to recuperate. This wait was worse than normal, both because of the sexually charged and abrupt conclusion to our last day together, and my anticipation of meeting the pack.
            I figured I’d have to go to his house and drag him out, begging him to help me find the other werewolves. Much to my surprise, he showed up at the office first thing in the morning, showered and shaved, the hollowness of his cheeks and the circles under his eyes almost gone.
            “You’re feeling better,” I said.
            He shrugged. “Slept all day yesterday. My parents think I’m on drugs.”
            “Would that be better or worse than you being a werewolf?”
            “They’d say I was hallucinating. Cause of the drugs.”
            “We good?” I asked.
            He sank into the chair across from me. “I think I should be asking you that.”
            “Not necessarily.”  
            “How do you figure?” he asked, eyes focusing on anything that wasn’t me.
            “I could’ve stopped you.”
            He shrugged. “It shouldn’t have gotten that far.”
            “I’m not upset at you,” I said.
            He didn’t speak right away, and the silence almost stretched into uncomfortableness before he said, “Damn. I was all ready to beg for forgiveness.”
            I lifted an eyebrow. “Did I say I wasn’t upset? I lied. I’m absolutely furious.”
            He laughed. “I’m not begging now. But I will help you with the pack.”
            I choked back the squeal that wanted to escape from my throat, choosing to give a quick nod in acknowledgement.
            A smile burst across his face like a flare. “It was really hard for you not to squee just then, wasn’t it?”
            “Shut-up,” I stuck out my tongue, before getting down to business. “What do we do next? Should we go back to the cemetery?”
            He leaned back in the chair, crossing his arms over his chest. “I got enough from last time.”
            “We’re looking for younger guys. They smelled like Axe products, beer, and the faintest hint of musty books.”
            “College students?”
            “That’s what I figured.”
            There was only one in our area, Arcadia College, located in Riverview. It was tiny, but prestigious, having the honor of being the first private institution of higher education in the region.
            I was ready to go, but Penny held up a hand, causing me to sink back into my chair.
            “I’ll find them. But I’m not meeting them with you.”
            My mouth pulled sideways, in a pursed “not impressed” face, but I agreed. I wasn’t about to point out that they knew what he smelled like, too.  
            Arcadia College was small, but gorgeous. The streets and sidewalks were lined with trees, and the brick buildings gave the campus a kind of Colonial charm. Everything was well maintained because of generous donations from the wealthy parents—including the fancy campus housing.
            We parked in a guest parking lot across from the main campus, and Penny worked on picking up the scent of werewolf. It didn’t take long.
            We stopped in front of Rutledge Hall, the main administrative building, to decide where to go first. Penny took three steps before going completely still, all his muscles rigid, pupils dilated.
            We tracked the scent to every building on the main campus, but the trails were all several hours old. We drove around to the housing circle, and that’s when we found them.
            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, looking at the brick house with the hand-painted sign reading “Omega Kappa Beta” over the front door.
            “Unfortunately, no” Penny said, drumming his fingers on the car door.
            “Werewolf frat bros?” my eyes couldn’t open any wider.
            He laughed, “What were you expecting? Bikers?”
            “It makes more sense than this!” I gestured at the house.
            He kept laughing, but grabbed his phone and started scrolling through Facebook. He ignored me for several minutes before noticing I hadn’t left the car.
            “What are you doing?” he asked.
            “Sitting here?”
            “Obviously,” he rolled his eyes. “What happened to being a Goodwill Ambassador to werewolves? You should be in there,” he pointed at the frat house.
            I raised my eyebrows at him, but didn’t respond.
            “I can’t believe you,” he stifled a laugh. “You’re afraid, not because they’re werewolves, but because they’re douche bags. The girl who willingly takes on demons and vampires,” he shook his head.
            “Oh, shut-up,” I said, back-handing his shoulder. “I’m not afraid. I’m just—restructuring my expectations.”
            “Uh-huh,” he said.
            “What am I supposed to say to them?”
            “You’re a girl at a frat house. I don’t think you have to say anything.”
            “You know, that’s really not helpful.”   
            “Just pull your top down and smile. You’ll be fine.”
            I slammed the car door and stomped up to the Omega Kappa Beta house, pounding on the door before I had a chance to think better of it.
            The door swung open almost as soon as I knocked, throwing me off balance. It had nothing to do with the guy standing on the other side of the door, even though he had a gorgeous crooked smile and brown eyes like melted chocolate.
            “You must be Caro,” he said (crooked smile). “I’m McGregor. We’ve been wondering when you’d show up.”
            He put his hand out for me to shake, which I did, but I could only manage a very articulate, “Uhhhh.” He was too polite, too unexpected, for me to think right away.
            Then, “Wait, how do you know me?”
            That smile again. His eyes twinkled. “I think the better question is, how could we not? You’ve dedicated yourself to protecting people from monsters when everyone else is content to ignore the truth. That’s quite admirable.”
            I shrugged. “Not everyone thinks so. Why is your name McGregor?”
            His nose wrinkled. At first I thought he was offended, but his lips quivered and I realized he was trying not to laugh. “It was my great-grandmother’s maiden name. Come in,” he said, turning and walking into the formal dining room, which now housed a foosball table, lots of Budweiser signs, and a futon. He turned back to say, “Oh, and tell your friend to come in, too.” My mouth opened, but before I could make up excuses he said, “There’s no mistaking the scent of werewolf.”
            I texted: They know about you. Come in.
            He responded: Goddammit, Caro.
            Like it was all my fault.  
            I sat on the futon, while McGregor leaned on the foosball table.
            “What are you, the werewolf fraternity spokesperson?” I asked.
            “Something like that,” he said, resting his hands on the edge of the table. “We knew you were getting curious. Thought it might be time to get to know you better. Also,” he paused, licking his lips. “Your friend, is he having any trouble?”
            “Trouble?” I asked.
            My eyes slid away from him as I contemplated my answer.
            The front door opened and closed, sneakered feet making soft thuds as they crossed the hardwood floor to where McGregor and I waited.
            Tension and hostility poured from Penny; his jaw was clenched, fists white-knuckled at his sides.
            “I’m not joining your pack,” he spat at McGregor.
            “I’m not asking you to,” McGregor put his hands up in front of him. “We won’t try to recruit you, but you’re welcome to join us if you choose to do so.”
            Some of the aggression eased, and Penny’s spine relaxed, but he was still on edge. McGregor’s attention switched from Penny to me.
            “You came here for a reason. What can I help you with?”
            It was hard to think with those brown eyes being all twinkly and melty at me.
            I cleared my throat. “Last week we found zombies in the woods around Pine Grove. They were called up by a witch, but badly controlled. They’d been contained in that area with an extra spell. We tracked the bodies back to the Willow Hill cemetery.”
            “Which is where we were running that night. You think we might know something about the zombies.”
            He was way too smart. “I thought it was a possibility.”
            He sighed. “I wish we could help you, but we were just out for a run.”
            “You run to the cemetery?” I asked.
            “No. It’s just on our route.”
            “You go the same way every time?”
            He chuckled. “You’re cute when you’re interrogating. We have a couple different ones.”
            I ignored the cute comment. “Who suggested you go the cemetery route that night?”
            His eyes flicked away from me, just for a second, but that’s all I needed. I was certain he was hiding something. “We alternate throughout the week,” he said.
            I changed track. “Is everyone in this fraternity a werewolf?” I asked.
            “It’s not exactly in the charter, but yes. It’s something we look for in pledges. Being what we are isn’t easy. It’s a support group.”
            Penny, who had been silent in the corner for most of the conversation, finally spoke up. “How are there so many of you? And all around the same age?”
            “That’s why we were interested in Caro,” he said, tilting his head in my direction. “We were curious. There are fifteen of us, including the freshman and sophomore pledges. And now you. None of us think it’s a coincidence.”
             “That’s pretty suspicious,” I agreed, being careful to school my facial features. What McGregor said put my hair on end, making goosebumps spring up along my arms. “What do you want me to do about it?”
            “What you do best. Investigate it.”
            Penny snickered and I narrowed my eyes in his direction. I was intrigued by this new werewolf revelation, but I wasn’t about to be sidetracked from my main purpose. “Can I talk to any of the other guys?” I asked.
            “Unfortunately, they’re off campus helping with a Lymphoma fundraiser. I’ll talk to them when they get back. If they know anything, I’ll get in touch,” he smiled, a blinding, toothy, politician smile. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m expected to join them.”
            “Of course,” I gave him the same meaningless smile, before standing and crossing the room. Penny was right behind me.
            McGregor opened the door for us. I handed him a business card on the way out.
            Penny and I didn’t speak until we were in the car.
            “What did you think of him?” Penny asked.
            “He was very charming,” I said.
            “You liked him,” he tried for nonchalance, but there was a sharp under current to his words.
            I shook my head. “He’s dangerous. He obviously has an agenda.”
            “This is why I didn’t want to get involved with them,” Penny said.
            “He said he wouldn’t force you to join them.”
            “You believe him?” He asked.
            I wasn’t sure how to answer, so I didn’t. “What do you think about all the werewolves around our age?” I asked instead.
            He turned toward the window, watching the trees fly by as he answered. “It worries me,” he said. “I don’t understand the purpose. How could young guys be any asset as werewolves?”
            “Unless someone wanted a pack to be created to fulfil some kind of agenda.”
            “You think McGregor is working for them?”
            “No,” I said. “He was a lot of negative things, but genuinely concerned about you and his fraternity brothers.”
            We fell silent, both lost in our own conjectures about the pack of teen and twenty-something werewolves. Before I could come up with anything close to a strong theory, Penny interrupted my thoughts.  
            “Are you done with the zombie investigation?” he asked.
            “For now,” I said.
            I lied. I didn’t want to argue with Penny about it, but I knew McGregor was hiding something for someone. And I was going to find out what it was.


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