Dusk – Jessica Florence

“Finished!” I threw the old rag over my shoulder and looked at the beautiful sight in front of me. “Isn’t that something?” My pop stood next to me, awe in his voice. We’d been working for two years restoring the 1969 Chevrolet Camaro, and it was finally done, waxed and shining like the beauty she was. The all-black interior and exterior gave it a fierce edge. It was Pop’s idea to get the old girl and fix her up for my sixteenth birthday. Today. We both just stood there, staring at all the hard work we’d put in. It looked fantastic and sounded even better once we turned the key. “Well, I’ve got to admit, I had my doubts, but she looks great.” My mom’s voice broke into our moment of victory. I looked back at her and smiled. Momma wrapped her hands around my shoulders, a big grin on her face. Her tanned skin and raven-black hair of our Native American heritage made her look like an Indian badass, but her smile was what softened her face. Momma had a great smile. “Yeah, our little mountain nymph did a great job.

” Pop winked at me, and I rolled my eyes with his name calling. He did a lot of the work; I truly only helped here and there. School took up a lot of my time on the reservation, but I still contributed. It made me feel proud to have accomplished rebuilding my first car. I couldn’t wait to drive her to school after I got my license tomorrow—show her off. “All right, supper is just about done. Get cleaned up so we can eat, and then Echo can take us for a drive around the neighborhood.” Mom squeezed my shoulders, which were a little sore from working so much, and walked back toward the house. “I got to clean up out here; go wash up inside. I’ll be inside in a few.

” Pop pulled me in for a hug, his big bear arms squeezing me tight. Little bits of gray were popping up in his long, black hair that he had tied behind his head into a ponytail. His face had a few wrinkles around his eyes from laughing all the time. “Okay,” I told him and ran to the house on our farm. I jogged up the stairs to my bathroom and jumped in as soon as I peeled my greasy clothes off. “Yesssssss.” I mumbled under the hot water. My body was aching, and the water felt heavenly. Tomorrow was going to be the best day ever. Momma said we could get my license first thing in the morning, and then I could drop her off and head to school in my badass car by myself.

Knowing that dinner was finished by now, and I would have a cake lit with candles all ready for me, I hurried out of the shower and dried off quickly. My clothes were simple since it was just us tonight for my birthday dinner: jeans and a longsleeved shirt. After brushing my long black hair out, I left my room and hopped down the stairs. I paused just around the corner to the dining room, hearing Momma’s little whimpers she makes when Pop holds her and gives her kisses on her neck. As gross as it was to see them being touchy all the time, I couldn’t wait to be with a guy that loved me as much as Pop loved Momma. I coughed loudly, letting him know I was about to come into the room so they could knock it off. “All right, I’m ready for my—” I stepped into the room, and my whole body froze. Momma’s eyes were staring at me while she lay on the floor, tears rolling down her cheeks into a little puddle on the rug. “Momma,” I whispered then moved over to her topless body that had small cuts all over of it and two large wounds in her back between her shoulder blades. “Echo…” She tried to talk, but she was so weak, and so pale.

I ran to our phone in the kitchen and started to dial 911 when a shadow slipped through my peripheral vision. I whipped around to see who was here, but the room was empty. Then I looked at the ground and saw my dad lying on the floor too, a puddle of blood surrounding his big body. “Run,” Momma croaked, and just as I looked back at her face, her gaze became still, and her breathing stopped. “Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?” I heard movement in the kitchen and spun around to look in the direction of the noise. My body was shaking, scared of what evil lurked in my house that would do something like this. Should I run like Momma wanted me to? I didn’t want to leave them. I vaguely heard the dispatcher on the line talking to me, trying to get me to talk, but the words weren’t coming. Then a hand touched my hair. I panicked, dropping the phone and flailing my body around before taking off toward the door.

My feet were fast as I ran into the yard, then into the woods. I kept going, until I couldn’t run anymore. My body was on fire, and my heart was broken. A howl of despair filled the air from my lips. My momma was dead. Someone killed her and cut her up like she was nothing. And my pop—I didn’t even have a chance to check on him but I knew he wasn’t alive. The pain in my heart was bad, but something else was breaking inside me. My body popping and cracking, the strange involuntarily jerking and excruciating pain making me fall to the ground. I screamed as parts of me were broken and healed in the same second.

Everything about me was changing, and all I could do was rip at my constricting clothes that kept my body from doing what it needed. In what seemed like seconds later, the pain was gone, and I was staring up at the sky. The sun was setting, and dusk had taken over. A time of transition. I tried to sit up and take deep breaths, but the movement wasn’t natural. Looking down at my body, I let out of shriek of shock. I wasn’t human, but an animal—a wolf, to be exact. Falling back to the ground, I whimpered and cried for the lives that were lost tonight—my parents and my own. Things were never going to be the same as when dawn came this morning, the sun was falling on my old life. And there was no going back.

Chapter One Echo 2017 Two Weeks Ago Ouch! The pinching from a needle being shoved in my back hurt like hell. I felt so weak, so nauseated, and I couldn’t move my limbs. “I got the sample,” a man said in triumph, and I heard the clinging of his syringe hitting a metal tray. “Test it with the others. We are closer now than ever before to the host maintaining powers without failure. Master said one of this group of gifted will have some vital genetics toward our goal. Dispose of the bodies. Can’t have the Hero Society finding them.” Another man with a proper voice spoke and then walked out a door. My head was muddled while trying to take in as much information as I could, so I could track these men down and bring them to justice once I was feeling myself again.

I’d been walking to my Camaro when something had pricked my neck, and my sight turned fuzzy. Vaguely I remember turning into an animal, but I didn’t know which one. It happened randomly like that when I was distressed about something. I’d managed to control it a few years after my sixteenth birthday, but I guess being shot with some sort of dart filled with drugs will stress anyone out. “Let’s go, kitty.” The man who poked me in the back petted my head and then started unlatching the belts that were holding me onto the table. I knew I was a goner, even in my blurred mental state. Fight. I had to fight back somehow. I thought about being a tiger, then I could crush the man with my weight and escape, but nothing happened.

Shit. Willing my last bit of strength as he carried me off to my death, I unleashed my claws, and fought back. The man screamed in pain and dropped me on instinct. I took off running and by some miracle made it out into woods. I tried desperately to find somewhere I could hide but didn’t see any options beyond some low-hanging brush. With shaky legs I skulked around the island I was on and found a boat. Maybe it would take me back to Seahill. Wherever it was going, it would be better than here. Making sure no one was on the vessel, I jumped on and squeezed myself into a small nook where I could hide from human eyes. My body was done with me for now.

It needed rest, and I prayed while sleep took me that I wasn’t found again. I needed to get back home, become human again, and find these fuckers. When I woke again, still as a drugged-up cat, I noticed the boat wasn’t next to the island anymore but docked up next to the city. My legs wouldn’t move, though. I was too weak. I lay there, listening to the small waves hit the side of the boat, thinking about my life. After my parents died, I spent the rest of my teenage years being a bitch under the control of my aunt, who hated me. Every day I worked at the only restaurant on the reservation until my feet hurt, so I could save up money to move to the city, away from the staring eyes and whispered rumors. On the days I didn’t work, I was transforming into creatures of all sizes, practicing my new powers and testing their limits. By the time I was old enough to leave, I’d saved up enough money to rent a shitty apartment in Seahill.

A vise grip feeling hurt my head and I know my loud meow echoed around the boat. I couldn’t die here. Not after everything I’d been through. Everything I’d worked so hard to accomplish. I tried again to move, and this time I did. I was terribly weak and knew I didn’t have much left in me. I ran as hard and as fast as I could to get to my apartment. I’d left the window open for the fresh air to get in and knew I could fit once I climbed up the escape ladders. I saw my building in the distance, but it seemed fuzzy, unfocused. I was close.

So close. But then my feet gave out from under me, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to get back up. People were walking around me, not caring that I was dying before their eyes. Just more street vermin that was better off dead than begging for food. God, it was cold. I closed my eyes and thought warm thoughts. At least if I was going to die, I’d pretend I was sitting cozy by a fireplace, on a nice fluffy rug. Warm hands touched my body, and my eyes flew open to look at the shadowed man above me. Was he going to take me back to those assholes who were experimenting on me? Was he just petting the dying cat? “It’s okay; you’re going to be okay.” His touch was soothing, and something in his calming voice lulled me to finally let go.

My eyes closed, and I let whatever darkness that was waiting for me to take me. I woke up some time later, warm and wrapped up in a blanket. “Wake up, little one. You need do drink this.” That soothing voice from the street was demanding I drink from a medicine syringe. I was thirsty, and hungry. It felt like it’d been days since I’d had anything to eat or drink. Too weak to move my head, I simply opened my mouth, trusting that this man wasn’t trying to poison me. That’s how things went for days. He carried me around when he was home, feeding me, helping me drink water, and holding me up inside a litter box so I could relieve myself.

It was humiliating to be so needy in order to survive, but I wouldn’t have lived past that night on the sidewalk if it wasn’t for him. At night he curled me against his hard muscles and covered me up, so I would stay warm. I waited until I knew he was completely passed out and then poked my head out to truly look at my savior. His black hair was wavy and curled over his ears, and his long lashes fanned his high cheekbones. I’d seen a flash of brown eyes once or twice when he was feeding me. He was handsome, I’d give him that. And he was kind to me. When I was back to my normal human self, I’d find a way to repay him for bringing me back from death’s door. His eyebrows pinched together, and he jerked suddenly, sending me shooting off the bed with a startled meow. Instantly he woke up and searched for me.

“I’ve got you,” he said softly and gently picked me up, placing me against his side again. His fingers lightly stroking my patchy, black and white fur. “I don’t even know your name, and here I am sleeping with you,” he joked, and I glared at him with my cat eyes. His brown eyes looked at me like he was seeing more in me than the cat I appeared to be. “How about I call you—” He started thinking over a name for me, thinking this relationship would be permanent. A man and his cat. “Snow White.” He smiled and then rubbed my head next to my ears. “Yep. That’s the one.

Good night, my Snow White.” Chapter Two Echo Present day I was grateful, don’t get me wrong. But I was annoyed that after two weeks I still couldn’t revert back to my human form. So, I may have been acting out a little bit as of late, which I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about at all. The man who took me in was nice, as far as I could tell. He found me sick and practically dying on the sidewalk. He brought me to his home and nursed me back to health. I was too weak to do anything other than nap beside him and accept all the help he offered. I was one hundred percent fine now, but I was still stuck as an animal. “Snow White.

” He called out the name he gave me, which was stupid, in my opinion. But I sauntered over to see what he wanted, nonetheless. I jumped up on the coffee table where his glass of water sat. He looked at me with sweet eyes, and if I could roll mine, I would. “Come sit with me.” He patted the seat next to him, and I turned, giving him my backside as an answer. He wanted a companion in me, and I was not a companion at all. In fact, when I was a human, I was the best damn detective there was in Seahill. I didn’t need anyone, and I didn’t want anyone. Especially with the big case I landed just before I was kidnapped by those people and used like a guinea pig.

“Snow.” He clicked his tongue, trying to get me to come over. It only made me feel bitchy, which had been my go-to lately when it came to him. Asher was his name, and I was currently stuck in his home until I could change back into my normal form. I walked over to the glass of water and touched it with my nose. I miss sipping from cups instead of using my tongue. “Don’t knock that off the table,” he warned lightly, and my head turned toward his. Did he just challenge me? I mentally scoffed at him while pushing the glass closer to the edge of the table. “Snow.” His voice was deeper, with a warning note, and as attractive as that was with him, I didn’t care.

I pushed the glass to the edge of the table and looked him right in the eye before knocking it completely over.

.

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