to contact Chris Halloran, but learned he had taken a traveling assignment with his engineering firm, and was seldom in town for long. Maybe, she decided, it was better this way. She would have liked to say she was sorry about the bad days at the end, and keep at least a part of Chris's friendship, but seeing him might just open old wounds.

Instead, she had accepted the invitation of a college classmate and flown to Seattle for a visit. That was when she met David Richter.

David was twenty years older than Karyn, and solid as Mount Rainier. He did not have the dreamy romanticism of Roy Beatty, nor the charm and dash of Chris Halloran, but he was exactly what Karyn needed. She had been a little hesitant about meeting David's son, but she need not have worried. She and Joey hit it off immediately.

The big test, in Karyn's mind, came when she told David the story of Drago. He had listened patiently and seriously, without laughing or patronizing her. He did not, of course, treat it as reality, but accepted it as a minor eccentricity as he might have accepted a slight limp.

David asked her to marry him two months after they met. He offered her security and stability, and a kind of quiet love she had never known. She said yes.

All in all, Karyn was content with her life as Mrs. David Richter. Now if she could just stop dreaming of the wolves, and shake the feeling that someday, somewhere, they were going to kill her.


IN THE SAN JOAQUIN Valley of California a band of gypsies made their camp in a clearing at the edge of a forest. Their camp was not much like the romantic fiction of operettas and the movies. Instead of colorful horse- drawn wagons, their vehicles were vans, pickup trucks, travel trailers and campers. The music in the camp came from transistor radios and tape decks, not from the fabled wild violins and tambourines.

Some things, however, remained little changed over the centuries. Although many of them worked for daily wages in the neighboring fields, the gypsies remained wanderers. An entire camp might pack up and vanish one night, to appear next morning in another place miles away. And the gypsies still had their own methods of communication, which carried news between distant camps more swiftly than the mails.

In yet another way these modern gypsies resembled their forebears. They had a deep respect for the old beliefs. They still held that a man's future could be seen in the lines of his hand. The turn of a card could chill the blood like the whisper of Death. And the gypsies knew there were those who existed outside the laws of nature, creatures to be feared and never, never betrayed.

For this reason the gypsies stayed well away from a battered old trailer that rested on blocks at the periphery of the camp. By their heritage they were bound to protect those who dwelt there, but the wisdom of their ancestors kept them wary.

* * *

Inside the trailer was shadowed, the sun filtered by green cloth curtains across the two small windows. There was a tiny alcove for cooking, with a butane stove and refrigerator. There were a table and benches, which folded up out of the way when they were not being used. At the far end of the trailer, across its entire width, was a bed, covered with a profusion of pillows, silken scarves, soft blankets over a billowy mattress.

Amidst the pillows and scarves on the bed were the wet, naked bodies of a man and a woman. The man was blond, and broad through the chest and shoulders. The woman was dark and long-bodied, with compelling green eyes and hair of midnight black shot through with a streak of silver.

The body of the man strained over the woman. Her long, strong legs locked him between her knees. With a last powerful thrust the man buried himself deep inside the woman. With a sharp intake of breath, she clasped him tight against her. He groaned deep in his chest. Her teeth sank in and marked his shoulder. They cried out together, and it was finished.

Roy Beatty rolled over on his side. The woman rolled with him, still holding him tightly in the circle of her arms. Roy's breath came in ragged gasps. As always with Marcia, their climax had been a devastating experience, leaving him spent and drained as no other woman ever had. Since the first time he saw her in the hamlet of Drago — had it been only three years? — Roy Beatty had belonged to this woman. He had been hers even before she had claimed him in the ancient way. Now they shared the power and the curse, and he was hers forever.

'Are you at ease now, my Roy?' Marcia Lura let her fingers wander through the damp golden hair across his chest. 'Did I please you?'

Roy pulled a breath deep into his lungs and exhaled slowly. 'You please me like nothing else on earth.'

'And you will never leave me?'

He pulled back his head to look at her. 'Leave you, Marcia? Impossible.'

'That is good.' Her fingers massaged the corded muscles where his neck joined his shoulders. 'We will leave this place soon.'

Roy pulled away from her and sat up. He ran his hand over the smooth length of her body. 'Are you sure you're well enough to travel?'

'I am as well now as I will ever be. I know these have been difficult months for you, my Roy, nursing a sick woman, but now it is over.'

'All that matters is having you near me,' he said.

'I will always be near you,' she said. 'I will be all the woman you will ever want. But now, you know what we have to do.'

Roy's eyes shifted away. He reached down for his clothes where they had fallen beside the bed. 'You mean — Karyn.'

'Yes!' Green fire flashed in her eyes. 'That woman.'

He turned back to face her, feeling the impact of her hatred. 'Do we have to go through with this?' he said. 'So much time has passed.'

Marcia ran her eyes over him slowly. When she spoke there was a chill in her voice. 'You can't be saying you still have tender feelings for her. Can you?'

'She was my wife,' Roy said.

'Your wife!' Marcia spat out the words. 'What did that woman know about being a wife? If she had pleased you, you would not have come to me.'

'But it all seems so long ago.'

'Does it? Does it, Roy? To me, it seems like yesterday.' Marcia touched the slash of silver that ran through her dark hair above the left eyebrow. 'I think of that woman every time I look into a mirror and see how she marked me when she fired the silver bullet into my head.'

'She was defending herself.'

'And now you are defending her.'

'Marcia, no, I am with you always. You know that.'

'And yet you take the part of the woman who tried to kill me.'

'She couldn't have known it was you. All she saw was a wolf.'

'You underestimate her, Roy. She knew. Oh, well she knew. Yes, she saw the body of a wolf, but what she tried to kill was the spirit of the woman who had taken her man.'

He reached out and stroked the satiny black hair. 'My poor Marcia. You were so close to dying.'

Marcia's mouth tightened. 'But now I am well and strong. At least the woman part of me. As for the other — it might be better if the silver bullet had struck a fraction lower and done its work completely.'

Roy looked away.

'You know, do you not, what that woman stole from me with her silver bullet? She stole the power of the wolf, the freedom of the night. Do you remember, Roy, those nights when we ran wild and free? Do you remember the times together? The pleasures we gave each other? The pleasures we took?'

'I remember,' he said. Still he did not look at her.

'Never again will I know that wild joy,' she said. 'Now in the night you must walk alone.'

Roy faced her. He looked deep into the green eyes. 'Is there no way — '

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