The Beast in the Woods
This is an additional scene I wrote for WAKING THE DRAGON. It was originally published on the Dark Faerie Tales site for their Fantastic Fables event in 2015. DFT asked me to write the scene as a spin on a fairytale, so here is Kol and Moira in a short rendition of "Little Red Riding Hood."
I stepped beyond the cluster of trees, wandering away from the old wise man’s cottage. A pool of moonlight beckoned me, glazing the grass silver. No snow covered the ground but the biting chill warned it was coming soon. Past the craggy treetops, naked limbs bending in the winter wind, the moon beamed among a sea of glistening stars.
“Don’t stray too far.” Kol’s deep voice boomed directly behind me.
I jumped with a yelp and whirled. “Damn it. Don’t scare me like that.”
Moonlight gilded his black hair and dark, jagged wings with lines of silver. His fey eyes burned an unearthly blue. A shadow parted his face, darkening the half where a reddened scar ran from cheek to chin. He was an intimidating specimen of Morgon man—all brawn and hard angles.
His body remained stone, but his chin dipped lower as he drank me in. “You’re too curious for your own good, Moira.”
I took a step closer, falling into his shadow. “I’m an investigative reporter. Of course, I’m curious. I do what I must for the good of the people, for the truth.”
“The truth. And what truth are you seeking?”
“Who is murdering these girls, of course? And for what purpose?”
“Does a predator need a reason to slaughter prey?” He inched closer. His voice rumbled low and smooth.
“No. But these aren’t animals.”
“Perhaps they are. What do you know about the victims?”
I swallowed hard, remembering the crime scene photo of Maxine Mendale. Naked, violated, slit from neck to pubic bone and thrown into the snow like a butcher’s carcass.
“The victims were brutalized and murdered. Then thrown out like trash.”
“Precisely. Sounds like animalistic behavior to me, devoid of reason.”
I blew out a frustrated breath, meeting his steady gaze. “Stop dancing around the issue. What exactly are you saying? That animals did this? We know that’s not true.”
“We have forensic proof that Morgons committed these crimes.” His voice resonated with endless patience, though his tenor darkened. “But you’re still investigating as if humans were responsible. Logical humans with proper motive guiding their behaviors.”
“And you think I’m wrong?”
“I believe you’re viewing this from a human’s perspective.” He partially opened his wings then tightened them to his back, drawing my gaze to the sharp movement over his broad shoulders. “We are only half human, Moira. And there are a number of Morgons who serve the needs of their inner dragon more than their human counterpart.”
I locked onto his gaze, refusing to inch backward as my instincts urged. I was indeed in the presence of a beast. A powerful one.
“You’re…inner dragon. He urges you to maim and murder? That’s what you’re telling me?”
“I’m telling you that a beast resides within all Morgons. Centuries-old DNA compels us to act on particular urges. I’m telling you that our cravings and instincts often lean toward violence, brutality, and the carnal.” He paused, letting the last tighten the tension between us. “Some Morgons allow their dragon to take the reins and do what he wills.”
A shiver shot down my spine. The wind ghosted through the trees, bare branches creaking and knocking together like an old woman’s bones. The breeze lifted a tendril of my dark hair which crossed my face and caught on my lip. I pulled the loose strand away and tucked it behind my ear, all under the watchful gaze of the biggest, baddest Morgon I’d ever known. Charged energy sizzled in the air. An invisible electric current rolled off of the preternaturally still beast in front of me, raising the tiny hairs on my arms.
“Tell me, Moira. What do you know of dragons?”
I licked my lips, though my mouth had gone bone dry. “They have superior senses of vision, hearing, and smell.”
“All the better to detect our enemies.”
His body heat filled the sliver of space separating us. “They can breathe fire.”
“All the better to protect our treasure.”
I clenched my fists, willing myself not to cower away. “They can fly.”
His wings twitched. “Easier for the chase.”
A gust of wind blew across the clearing, loosening my hair again. The wayward strand once more flipped across my face. Kol’s supernatural gaze narrowed. I stepped back, but his hand shot out and wrapped my arm, holding me still as he pressed into my space, his chest grazing mine. His other hand lifted. I froze, heart hammering a frantic beat. With a gentle stroke, he glided his fingers across my cheek, pulling the strand free and tucking it behind my ear. His thumb lingered along my jaw.
“Do not be afraid, Moira.” He curled his fingers around my nape. “Yes. A dragon lives inside me. He breathes fire and lusts for blood…and for pleasure.” His thumb stroked down to my pulse-point. “But he’ll never harm you.” His fingers tightened a split second before he pulled his hand away. He kept his body wonderfully close. Painfully close. Blue-fire eyes burned through me in the dark. “Never.”