Every door in the village was barred shut, every window sealed from entry. The red dirt of the main street was baked dry and clouds of dust stirred with their footsteps. If it weren’t for the scent of the people hiding behind closed doors and the sound of their heartbeats—fast and frightened, like hummingbirds—Fang would have thought they had wandered into a ghost town.
He looked over at his companion Jake, who was weary and covered with dirt but still handsome somehow, and felt a stab of guilt. It was his fault they were in this state, his fault they were fleeing further and further away from Jake’s home.
“This is the third village like this,” Jake remarked grimly, untying the sweat-soaked bandana from around his neck. “Where’s a werewolf going to get a shower and a drink these days?”
“Perhaps the next village will be better,” Fang said. The skin between his shoulder blades was crawling with the weight of the villager’s stares. They knew what he was; Fang was sure of it. “We should keep moving.”
“Fuck that. I’m tired, I’m thirsty, and I’m all out of cigarettes.” Jake continued down the road, hunting for an inn. When he spotted a likely door he strode up to it and knocked. “We know you’re in there,” he called. “We’d like a room for the night.”
Silence. Fang hung back, alert for trouble.
“We’ve got cash,” Jake added.
Now there were murmurs from behind the door. The summer drought was at its peak, and judging by the fine dust permeating the air this village had been hit worse than most. There wasn’t a hint of green as far as the eye could see—even the weeds growing in the shelter of the house were twisted and yellow.
“Step back,” a woman finally said.
Jake backed a few steps away from the door, keeping his hands slightly away from his sides to show he wasn’t armed. The door opened a crack.
Jake turned on the spot, looking amused. There was no place to conceal a weapon in his baggy trousers or vest top, but he had no need for weapons. Even without shifting to wolf form he was stronger than the average human. They both were. Fang put on a smile and did his best to look harmless.
The inn door opened fully. A girl barred the doorway, human by the smell of her. Her dark brown hair was tied up in a bun and she was wearing tight trousers under a loose shirt. In her hands was a long broom, held before her like a weapon. Her breathing quickened as they looked at her but she stood firm, and there was something about the way she lifted her chin that reminded Fang of his little sister. His heart twisted painfully in his chest and it took all his focus to keep on smiling.
“Hello,” Jake said, his voice sinking that little bit lower as he smiled at the girl. She flushed under his attention and Fang suppressed a flash of jealousy. “Could we stay the night at your lovely establishment?”
* * *
An except from my current WIP, which is set in the Above Ground universe. I’m aiming for novella length and am having good fun with these characters.