Some context and backstory

This scene originally took place in the middle of Havoc’s Moon, as a break between a minor action scene leading up to the big boss fight.

My goal was to build more drama and increase the tension between the characters but the more I revised it and the surrounding scenes, I felt it more dragged the plot down than helped anything. I hated making the decision to cut this scene because this fictional band has been with me forever and I really wanted to plug them in somewhere. This scene might turn into a stand alone Slaughter Chronicles short story later or I might move it over to my Heart of the Forest Cycle universe. It’s about Regina meeting one of her idols, a fictional lead singer of a fictional band I wrote into my very first NaNoWriMo manuscript all the way back in 2005.

As always, this is a deleted scene so it did not make it to the final editing stages. There will be grammar mistakes and the writing is not as polished. Please keep that in mind as you read and don’t judge me too harshly 😉

There are some “spoilers” but nothing that gives away key plot points.


(Context from a previous chapter)

On the wall by the door was one lone Burning Bitch poster.

Burning Bitch was a local punk rock group and, while the band toured all over the East Coast, the lead singer, Lorelie The Siren Sierra, was coming here, to Silver Wolf Stills, for her Halloween solo-tour show. Lorelie’s solo stuff was more acoustic, more folk-rock, than Burning Bitch’s usual repertoire. But her punk roots pumped new life into sea shanties and pirate ballads that Regina could not help but love.

It had taken Regina a solid year of begging Atlas to ask Tony, the Beta and distillery manager, to reach out to Burning Bitch and book a show. She would have asked Tony herself, but she knew he would automatically refuse any request that came from her because that’s how he was.

A dick. About everything.

Atlas said Regina was too judgmental, that Tony might surprise her and say yes. But Regina knew better. The feud between Regina and Tony was older than the malice she felt for all of Atlas’s girlfriends.

Before Regina went back to Dark Home this last time, Atlas finally had enough of her whining and gave up on trying to teach her about diplomacy and positive communication. He asked on her behalf. Sadly, Burning Bitch was booked solid until next summer, but The Siren herself agreed to play the Halloween Special of her solo tour here, at Silver Wolf Stills.

(Fast forward to the night of the show)

The singer on stage wore a red dress and a half-mask of black feathers, just like the girl she sang about. She was in the middle of Regina’s second favorite song. It was about a ghost ship and the ghost captain’s ghost daughter venturing onto land once a year to meet up with her still living lover at a masquerade ball. Regina was almost sure ghosts weren’t real—she had seen none yet—but the melody was soothing, as only an acoustic banjo could make it, and Lorelie Sierra’s voice was melodic and mournful.

The stage wasn’t really a stage, just a stack of wooden pallets bolted together for stability, but Lorelie The Siren Sierra of Burning Bitch rocked the precarious structure as if it were the grand stage of Carnegie Hall. A tight cluster of humans and werewolves—all in costume—crowded the back half of the bar. A few outliers, mostly pack members, sat at the bar content to just drink and listen.

Regina hovered by the front door, hesitant to go in. She was muddy, bloody, and pretty sure she’d make everyone high from the gasoline fumes wafting off of her person. Her (right) eye swelled shut, but pink fluid still leaked out of the corners. That whole side of her face was a bruised dark red and there were red pin-pricks where each of the Vermin’s twelve little legs dug into her cheek.

She had never been more thankful that tonight was Halloween. Her bloody clothes and well-chewed face could easily blend in with the Instagram-ready ghouls and devils and kitty cat faces of the bar’s patrons.

I am a Deadite, Regina thought. I am a zombie. I am—

“What the Hell are you doing here?” A sharp voice tore Regina out of the song like a fish snagged by a hook.

Fuck.

Tony’s nose wrinkled, “You smell horrible. What did you get into? Is that gasoline? Regina, I swear if you ruined another vehicle I’ll put you on administrative leave for a whole year.” There was more hazel than blue in his eyes.

“Calm down,” Regina snarled, more angrily than she intended. “There was a Vermin infestation. I had to set it on fire.”

“Did any get away?” Tony asked, suddenly all business.

“No, I made sure.” Regina held up her arm for emphasis. Tony frowned at the red bite marks and inflamed flesh.

“You can’t come in here like that,” he said.

“Oh, thank you, Regina. I appreciate you taking care of a threat to all my human patrons, Regina,” she mimicked. “Why, no problem at all, Tony old pal.”

“What happened to the wards in that area?” Tony asked.

“I don’t know,” Regina said snarkily. “What happened to the vampires promising everything was clean?”

“Don’t mention our neighbors.” Tony glanced behind him, clearly more worried about any humans who might have overheard than her actual injuries.

“It’s Halloween, they’ll think were talking about ordinary people,” Regina said. “Now excuse me, I’ve been looking forward to this show for three months.”

“Oh no,” Tony barred the way. “You’re not going in there like that. You’re a mess.” 

“Come on! No one else can tell,” Regina said. “There’re no rules against me watching the show.”

“There are when you’re covered in mud and blood.” Tony said.

“It’s Halloween,” Regina repeated, exasperated that he was still talking while Lorelie was finishing up possibly her last song. “Let people think it’s a costume.”

When Regina watched previous concerts in other states on the Burning Bitch live feed, Lorelie always ended her solo sets with the ghost song. But the audience could sometimes persuade her to do an encore. And Regina would not miss it just because Tony didn’t like how she looked.

“You know the rules,” Tony said. “No one allowed up here unless they look presentable.”

“I didn’t have time to change,” Regina begged, more tired than angry. “Come on, you know how much I love her.”

“No.” Tony insisted.

“I’ll stay out here then, just shut up and let me listen to her. The show’s almost over, anyway.” Regina took two steps backward and leaned against the outside of the doorframe. From this angle she could only see half of Lorelie’s head and her hand on the banjo’s fret board. It would do.

The crowd at the stage cheered. Regina lost sight of Lorelie as she took a bow.

“Alright guys! You’ve been great! Since it’s Halloween, I’ll play one more song.” Lorelie tuned her banjo to the sound of applause.

“Yes!” Regina gave a triumphant hop and stumbled sideways when her ankle rolled. “Fuck,” Regina muttered. She cast a quick glance at Tony, but he appeared to not have noticed. Still too busy scanning the crowd for traumatized humans.

“Please be the death song, please be the death song,” Regina chanted under her breath as she bounced unsteadily on the balls of her feet with nervous excitement despite the pain. If she could just keep moving, her system would work itself back to normal and she’d finally start healing properly.

Tony was silent for a moment, his lips pressed in a frustrated line. “People are going to see you there when they leave. Come here.”

“Where?” Regina took a panicked step back. If he pulled her into the light, he’d see her face, see the rest of the damage. Little granules of bloody mud scraped against the raw skin of her arms as she crossed them protectively over her tattered chest. “I’m not missing the encore!”

Tony let out a frustrated growl, “Just come here. You can wait over by my office. You’ll get a better view too.”

“Wow,” Regina didn’t bother hiding her shock. “That’s really nice of you.”

“I’m not doing it for you. Now come on, before she starts,” Tony moved away from the door. Regina pressed a hand over her swollen eye and followed.

Lorelie launched into the story of the song she was about to sing, giving the crowd teasing tidbits without telling them the song’s name. Regina loved that about Lorelie. Not only was she a wicked musician and a brilliant lyricist, she was a master storyteller. Even though Regina re-watched every recorded show on YouTube at least a hundred times and could recite every single one of Lorelie’s stories by heart, Regina never tired of them.

She ran her tongue over her teeth and fought the urge to spit bloody saliva on the floor. Excitement bubbled in her chest and took some sting of her punishment away. Yes, she missed the concert, but at least she got one song. One and a half songs, really. She could be happy with that.

Tony moved through the press of human patrons and members of the werewolf pack effortlessly. Regina had to work not to bump into people. The humans were oblivious to who she was, but the werewolves she passed gave her more room. Regina was an unfamiliar sight this far out of the woods, and their expressions ran the gamut from curious to cautious. To them, usually her presence meant trouble. 

But that night, Regina had taken care of all the trouble. She even repaired the ward Thane crushed at the beginning of her punishment. And she was just in time to hear her favorite Burning Bitch song.

“The Death Song!” Lorelei growled huskily into the microphone.

“Yes!” Regina pumped her fist in the air. The motion almost sent her stumbling into the path of two unsuspecting humans on their way back to the stage from the bar, full drinks in hand. Tony grabbed Regina’s arm and pulled her the rest of the way to his office. He let her go when they reached the door, his hand almost throwing her arm away instead of just letting go. Regina staggered and had to hop a step to catch her balance.

“Are you drunk or something? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing.”

Lorelie started playing and Regina forgot all about Tony. She let her attention float away with the music. Her blurry vision darted from the light fixtures above Lorelie’s head to the silver statue of the wolf on the bar. As the song continued, Lorelie’s voice brought Regina out of her daze and she started scanning the crowd. Regina could identify the humans but didn’t know if they were bar locals or just here for the concert. The bar wasn’t her territory.

Then her slow healing gaze fell on Atlas. He tucked his bulky frame away at the corner of the bar. Regina raised her hand to wave at him but then saw Marianna glued to his side and she lowered her hand quickly, brushing her fingers through her dirty, tangled hair to hide the gesture. Tony noticed.

“You don’t like her?” Tony asked as if he read her thoughts.

Regina snorted. “Nope.”

“Tough shit. She’s not going anywhere.” 

Regina couldn’t tell if Tony was being sarcastic or harsh. “Says you,” she spat under her breath. “They never last longer than six months.”

“She’s different.” 

Was it Regina’s imagination, or was Tony’s voice a little kinder? A little sympathetic? Nah. “You’re so helpful. You gonna watch my back on missions now, too?”

“Just stay here and don’t come out until everyone leaves,” Tony stalked toward the bar. “I don’t know why I bother with you.”

“Neither do I, fuck face.” Yes, I am the pinnacle of Void hunter maturity.

The Death Song ended and Regina clapped and whooped with the crowd, leaning on Tony’s doorframe for support. The werewolf staff herded the humans out and Tony took the drawer out of the register. Regina slid along the wall, away from his office door so she wouldn’t have to talk to him again.

She was so focused on keeping her eyes on Tony, she didn’t notice the stage and cracked her left knee into one of the pallet’s corners.

“Ouch,” an amused contralto voice chuckled, and Regina came face to face with The Siren herself. “You okay?” Lorelie asked.

“Y-yeah,” Regina’s hand flew over her eye again, hiding the wound. “I’m good.” Her leg from her knee to her hip was numb and tingly. The knee itself screamed as if caught in the claws of the Volcano Scorpion again.

“Great costume,” Lorelie said, oblivious to Regina’s pain. “I love zombies.”

“Yeah, me too,” Regina cautiously dropped her hand from her face. “That’s why I dressed like one. Hissssssss,” she raised her arms, pantomiming the movements of a hungry, dead thing. Lorelie laughed as she bent down to lay her banjo in its case. 

Regina cast a nervous glance over her shoulder to see if anyone else saw her being silly. And, of course, there was Tony with his jaw clenched like he was trying to bite through steel, gripping the edges of the register drawer like he wanted to throw it at her.

“Do you need help with anything?” Regina asked, ignoring him. “I’m the owner’s sister.” It was one of her cover story lies that actually had some truth to it. Or would have if Tony wasn’t such a dick.

“Oh, that would be great,” Lorelie smiled, showing off her dimples. “It’s just me tonight, as you can see, and these amps are kind of a bitch to wrangle.”

“Bitch! Because of your band,” Regina giggled. “I gotcha. No problem!” She followed where Lorelie pointed and started picking up equipment. “Your set was really awesome, I’m sure. I only got here at the end, though. I had to work.”

“Aww,” Lorelie pouted. “Sorry you missed most of it. But thanks for coming at the end when you could have just gone home.”

“I will literally drive up a river and through a blizzard to get to the last five seconds of one of your shows,” Regina hoisted an amp.

“Okay, crazy zombie.” Lorelie laughed again.

“Sorry, that came out wrong,” Regina blushed and was thankful neither Lorelie or anyone else could see it under the congealing blood and dim lights. “I just really like your music. And Burning Bitch too. You’re my second favorite band.”

“Who’s your favorite?” Lorelie asked as they walked out the back entrance and crossed the employee parking lot.

“Bowie!” Regina beamed. “He’s my—uh—dog’s favorite, too. We can listen to Bowie for hours every day.” (Author note: the “dog” is Squee)

“That is so sweet,” Lorelie smiled back at her. “Can I see a picture?”

“Of what?”

“Your dog?”

“Oh! Right,” Regina palmed her back pocket. “Oh man, my phone’s in my car. Sorry.” In reality, it must have lost it when she was digging up Danny or setting the Vermin on fire. That last involved a lot of running around and whacking things with a flaming tree branch.

“Next time,” Lorelie shrugged. “Well, this is my rig. Thanks for your help.”

Lorelie’s van was a beat up blue monstrosity covered in stickers that ranged from political slogans to music brands and coffee companies. There was a glittery pink mermaid stuck to the driver’s side window and a silver trident above it. Regina gathered herself to spew fond farewells all over her musical idol.

“Regina,” Tony’s voice rose sharply behind her. Regina turned and wobbled again as her abused ankle twisted yet again.

“Hey, Tony!” With supreme effort, Regina plastered the fakest smile known to man across her face and willed her open eye to stop watering. No matter how she felt about him, she still followed pack rules. And pack rules said never fight with each other in front of the humans. “What’s up?”

“This gracious lady needs her cut for the night. And there’s one more speaker by the bar. Go get it, please,” Tony said.

“Sure thing.” Regina tried her best not to limp. Damn fucking ankle, she whined to herself. Damn fucking paralysis.

Inside, the bar was pretty much dead. Atlas and Marianna moved to the middle of the bar now that there were no more human patrons to worry about. They filled their glasses with one of Tony’s seasonal, flavored moonshines left over from Summer, Peach Lemonade. 

The solid silver wolf dominated the bar. If any of the humans ever asked, Tony would joke that it was hollow, and not even silver-plated, but none of the werewolves would ever touch it. Silver burned worse than fire. Almost worse than Volcano Scorpion blood.

Regina hauled the remaining speaker toward Lorelie’s van and passed Tony coming in as she was going out. She smiled at him, just in case Lorelie was watching, but didn’t speak. And the smile dropped as soon as he was behind her. All the way down the hallway and in the silent bar, Regina heard him sit down heavily next to Atlas, and the low hum of their conversation faded into the background as Regina stepped out the back entrance again.

“Thanks a lot,” Lorelie said as Regina loaded her speaker into the back of her van. “This is for you,” she tossed a small white bundle at Regina. “For helping me pack up.”

Regina caught the bundle and shook it out. It was a Burning Bitch t-shirt with Lorelie and the rest of the band posing in a punk version of the Artemisia Gentileschi painting Judith Slaying Holofernes. Lorelie was Judith, of course, wearing a red tartan corset, a spiked collar, and safety pins in her ears.

“Thanks!” Regina waved as her second favorite singer hopped into the driver’s seat and backed out of the Bar’s parking lot. “Next time bring the whole band. We’d love to have you back!” Regina kept on waving as she drove down the highway, into the crisp Halloween night.

Satisfied Lorelie was truly out of sight, Regina locked the back door with the chain and padlock the bar staff hid under a plastic bucket behind the air conditioner.

*

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

I struggle with endings. The beginnings of things are easier to write than endings. One of the things I struggled with for this novella specifically was the note I wanted to end it on. Originally, this was to be published as a solo novella, not included in a bigger collection. So a lot changed during the editing process.

Once upon a time, Tony didn’t hate Regina. Up until literally the week before I scheduled the pre-order for Pulling Teeth, he was not bitter about Atlas bringing Regina home, he was not terrified of what would happen if Thane got his claws into her. And he decided—I thought—that he would want to be supportive and help her adjust to her new life.

I wasn’t mad at this ending, but when I put the final product together I found it was a little slow and had repetitive conversations between the characters. Two of the things I’m working on with my new editor are pacing and repetition.

Moonshine is the sequel to Dead Girl Moon. If you haven’t read either of these, here’s some context:

The setting is a werewolf pack’s compound that doubles as a bar and distillery…and other things too but for info on that, check out my post about HADES.

Tony hates his father. He has emotional trauma he hasn’t worked though. Regina has similar emotional trauma and Tony finds it hard to justify her coping mechanism because they involve the person (his father) who caused his trauma.

I hope that wasn’t too much of a spoiler.

Note: Since this is a deleted scene it has not gone through the entire editing process. There are typos, there are POV shifts, there are clunky sentences. Don’t judge me.


The distillery’s sub-level served as the pack’s medical bay and a series of small, empty concrete rooms Thane called Containment. They were for the newly contaminated, wolves who didn’t know how to be wolves. For wolves who were afraid of what would happen when they turned.

Thane tried to leave her there but when he turned away she latched onto his hand. He tried pulling back, he tried twisting away but she would not let go. He opened his mouth to reprimand her but when he saw her eyes blurry with tears, her lips stretched in that feral, panicked grimace, something inside him squeezed and then softened.

She made Thane promise not to lock her in.

Leaving the door open was easy enough. He knew she already imprinted on Atlas and possibly Vlad as well, Thane trusted her not to run off again. He even gave her one of the field issue sleeping bags so she wouldn’t get cold. And Tony said he didn’t know how to parent.

For a while, Regina sat quietly on the concrete floor, wrapped in slick polyester and survival fluff, unable to sleep. She hoped someone would come visit her. Atlas wanted to move her into his house right away but Thane insisted she stay isolated for at least 12 hours, just in case exposure to the Void made her sick again. Thane was confident, since she spent almost four days on the road, any adverse affects from Doctor Gregor’s treatments would have presented themselves by now.

But Regina was surprised to see Tony rapping his bruised knuckles against the open steel door.

“Well don’t throw a parade or anything.” The bruises on his face had mostly faded but there was still a deep, scabby gash across the bridge of his nose from where Atlas hit him. “Are you cold? Do you want a blanket? More food? It’s getting late, are you tired at all?” Tony asked.

“So you do bleed. Real blood,” she turned away from him and burrowed into the folds of the sleeping bag. If he tried to touch her or pick her up she would bite him.

But to her surprise he laughed, “Yeah, I bleed.” The smile he gave her was all teeth and disappointment as he regarded the tiny lump half hiding under the sleeping bag. Her hair straggled out from the opening like a distress flag. “You’ve got Atlas wrapped around your little finger. Thane too, God only knows how.”

“What’s that mean?” slowly, slowly, she turned and peeked out at him. Her golden eyes red-rimmed and suspicious.

“You’ll see, trust me. Since you’re living here now you’re going to have to listen to us and do exactly what we say, when we say it. It’s dangerous out there in the world. And there’s still standing orders to kill us and everyone else here who came from HADES. If they find us we’re all dead and I’ll bet my life if your mother’s people knew you were alive they wouldn’t stop looking until they found you. We need to make sure they don’t. Got it?”

“I don’t know why they’d want me,” Regina allowed herself the smallest nugget of sadness, any more and she’d start crying again and she wouldn’t be able to stop. “But I don’t want them.”

“Well, Atlas wants you. Fucker thinks he can teach you math! You’re going to be homeschooled and everything. That’ll be fun to watch.”

Regina’s nose wrinkled in disgust, “Mother didn’t make me do math.”

“Well you’re not with your mother anymore,” Tony said, then he caught himself, “Damn, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that.” He raked a hand through his hair.

“Mother let Michael do everything he wanted,” Regina whispered, not entirely ready to trust him. But there was something in his voice that wasn’t there before, there underneath the pain and resignation. She didn’t know what it was but she wanted to find out, so she kept talking. “He got to learn how to fight because he was strong. Mother said I had to stay inside my tiny room and listen to God because I was weak. But I could never hear him. Or he never talked to me. I don’t know. I wanted to be like my brother but she wouldn’t let me.”

“Your brother was away when your parents died?” Tony’s mask was back in place with a fresh coat of lacquer smoothing over the cracks. “Do you think he’s looking for you?”

By the time Regina was born, Michael was already well into his training. He always picked on her whenever Mother wasn’t looking, teasing her for fumbling her sacraments and tangling her rosary. He always tattled on her. He was probably happy she was gone. The thought didn’t make her sad, really, but she felt a heaviness in her heart like the echo of seeing Dead Daddy dead on the bathroom floor.

After she left the house turned mausoleum, she stayed by the river for a little while. She was smaller then and could disguise herself as a dog. In those days she didn’t pay attention to the time or the weather and wasn’t in her girl-shape much. She was sure Mother would come back from the dead like Lazarus and try to kill her again. But she never did. And no one came looking for her. She drifted farther and farther away from her town. She stopped only when she found a place with unfamiliar smells and no idea where she was or how to get back.

“No,” Regina said. “He doesn’t like me. If he wanted to find me he would have. He was always mad because I got to spend more time with Dead Daddy. He said he couldn’t wait until Mother sent me away and he could have both of them all to himself.”

As soon as the words left her mouth bile churned in her stomach and she felt sick, “He’ll think it’s my fault they’re dead. Everything was always my fault, even when it was his. He always blamed me for everything.” The tears threatened to fall again, stinging her eyes. She fought them, sniffing hard and blinking up at the ceiling.

Tony gave her a sad look, “Kid, I don’t know why families are fucked up. But I do know Sanctum and trust me, it’s best for everyone if they never find out you’re still alive.”

“How do you know? Were you a Sworn Sword too?” she peered cautiously out at him from beneath the tangled fall of her hair.

“No,” he shifted, wincing as he moved, and pulled something out of his back pocket. Another scrap of cloth. It was part of a jacket sleeve and smelled faintly of gun oil. Sewn onto it was a white patch shaped like a cartoon bone and three black dog heads with pointy ears and noses. “As soon as I was old enough to,” he paused, considering his words carefully, “see the truth of the world, Thane put me to work.”

Regina scooted forward, across the empty space in the tiny room. She took the patch from him, ran her fingers over the thick, black embroidery.

“BiscuitsofCerberus,” he continued. “Internal affairs. I hunted down all the hunters who refused to turn themselves in after they’d been contaminated.”

“Did you like doing that?” she asked.

He laughed, “No. But I did it anyway.”

“I’m glad they think I’m dead,” she said bitterly.

“Honestly, we don’t know that for sure. But Atlas and Thane think you are,” Tony said.

Regina reached out and touched the top of his hand. He sat there, staring at her small fingers tracing the shapes of the bruises. He could barely feel her fingers, he was numb and the cold of the basement had nothing to do with it. He was quiet for a long time before he spoke again.

“I want you to put everything Thane told you out of your head for a minute. Pretend you never met him. You can remember it all later if you want. But for right now, just 60 seconds, put it away. Can you pretend for me?”

“I guess so,” she pulled her hand away and when her eyes met his again, his eyes were more emerald than blue and she recognized the edge in his voice. It was fear.

“Alright, thank you,” he sighed and steeled himself. “Just because we’re werewolves here and we’re hiding from the GluttonsofChronos and Sanctum doesn’t mean we’re not still working for HADES.”

“You told me to forget everything,” Regina frowned suspiciously.

“I did. I’m telling you. My words, not his. We’re monsters who hunt down and kill other monsters to protect the people in our territory. My father hunts down other monsters for HADES. Is that the kind of life you want? If you really want to, you can leave with Vlad tomorrow. You’ll have a shot at a normal—well, not exactly normal but more normal than here. If you stay you’ll be helping the people who locked you up. And I can’t promise my father won’t be nicer than Prometheus—your Doctor Gregor.”

“Can I remember what Thane said now?” Regina asked.

Tony let out a breath he didn’t realize he’d been holding, “Yeah, go ahead.”

“I want to stay here,” she said.

“Can you tell me why?” Tony tilted his head towards the bare ceiling and squeezed his eyes shut against the harsh lights.

“Why don’t you want me here? What did I do to you?” she asked. And there was pain in her voice.

“Look, I don’t want to hurt you,” he said sadly. “I want to throw rocks at you until you run away but I don’t want any of them to hit you.”

“Where else can I go?” she asked. “I don’t have a home.” The white room Mother built just for her floated up from the murky depths of memory. The walls of her tiny corner of the world were illuminated only by a tiny white candle that Mother let her put on the floor because it it was already on the floor it didn’t have anywhere to fall. When she opened the tiny white door it did not lead into the hallway or her old living room but a larger white room. A room with a metal table and the sink where Doctor Gregor washed his hands. The water running through his fingers was red.

“I know,” Tony said. “I’m sorry.”

“You’re weird,” Regina sniffed. “And I don’t like you.”

“Yeah, I know. Thane is too. You need to watch your back around him.”

“I’m going to be his assistant,” she said, the first traces of pride in her voice.

What’s the harm? She’s already fucked up, Tony thought. She wants it, never mind she doesn’t understand. Maybe one day—No. He wouldn’t let her suffer the way he did. If Atlas was going to let this happen and if he really didn’t have a choice, he’d do whatever he could to keep her safe. But not because he cared. He would never allow himself to care about anything, not again.

“Mother didn’t let me do a lot of things,” Regina said, choosing her words carefully. “Michael got to go to camp and learned how to use a sword.”

“If all you want is a sword,” Tony began.

“No,” she stopped him. “I want to be a wolf.”

“I can’t let you do that,” he said, “I can tell you what wolves do, I can even tell you what werewolves do. I can teach you how to control your beast but I can’t let you be one.”

“Thane said I could be a wolf,” she insisted.

He gave her a look that was close to pity then. One of the hunters at Farrowthorn looked at her like that once, when he couldn’t figure out where she fit in the menagerie of predator and prey, human and monster. He was dead because he thought she was weak and defenseless, because she was a little girl on the outside but something very different on the inside.

“My father says a lot of things.”

“I don’t want to be a little girl anymore. I want to run in the forest. I want to be with the moon.”

“But the moon doesn’t have Evil Dead or Atlas or all the other things you love. The moon is a cold, dead rock and you, regardless of what’s happened to you, are still a person. You need to be around people. We all help each other and one day someone is going to need you, not your wolf.”

This excerpt is from a previous version of Dead Girl Moon’s fifth chapter. Dead Girl Moon is written from Regina’s perspective but there were some places where her father’s voice crept in. I had to cut his perspective for the final draft but I wanted to share his parts with you here because I think they’re still pretty fun to read.

So this is a companion scene, really.

If you haven’t read Dead Girl Moon or any of the other Slaughter Chronicles stories, that’s okay. Here’s a little bit of context…

Regina Slaughter is a werewolf who was accidentally turned by her father when she was nine years old.

Both of Regina’s parents work for a religious organization called Sanctum. Sanctum specializes in killing werewolves (and other monsters).

Regina’s mother is WAY more fanatical than her father. And a lot meaner too.


JOSEPH SLAUGHTER:

It was early evening, and Joseph Slaughter was busying himself with cleaning his SIG Sauer and trying to enjoy a beer and ignore the guilt that wouldn’t stop gnawing at him. The plan was to kill time until Catherine went to sleep. Leaving her and Michael would be hard—they’d have to deal with the fallout of him disappearing; the investigations, inquiries, and miscellaneous upheaval that came when a Sworn Sword of Sanctum deserted. But it was either that or risk tearing them to shreds like he almost did Regina the day before.

At least she wasn’t experiencing any negative emotional side effects, so far. She bounced back rather quickly from such a horrible wound. Torn strands of muscle tissue were all that held her arm to her torso and the ball of her shoulder joint was a splintered mess. He’d have to keep a close watch on her over the next few weeks and nip the nightmares in the bud.

The rest of the house was, unlike his roiling thoughts, quiet and calm. Regina was settling down for her evening bath and his wife was sequestered inside what he liked to call her meditation alcove. Everyone was compartmentalized, in their proper place, and everything was going according to plan.

Joseph almost convinced himself everything was going to be fine when he heard Regina screaming from the bathroom. 

When he kicked the door open he found Catherine holding her long sword, pointing it down into the bathwater. He had no illusions about what his wife did for Sanctum but she never took her weapon out of her sanctuary when she was home, not even to show Michael. 

The long, two-handed beidhänder had only one purpose: killing demons.

Joseph stared with growing horror into the water. It was red, sanguine, and just below the surface he saw Regina pinned to the bottom of the cast iron tub, the point of the sword piercing her stomach.

“She’ll drown or bleed out,” Catherine said coldly. “Whichever comes first, it makes no difference to me.”

Joseph fired three rounds into his wife’s chest. The impact set her off balance and she stumbled into the wall, but she didn’t fall. But she took the sword with her and Regina broke the surface of the water with a siren wail scream.

Shrugging the bullet wounds off with a prayer muttered like a curse, Regina’s mother raised her sword. The weapon was plain, the cross-guard was of simple design, and a dull red stone graced the pommel. But as the words left her lips, the red stone began to glow, it pulsed with a fierce inner light and fire burst from the cross-guard and swept up the blade.

Joseph threw his gun to the floor, though he still had a few shots left, and embraced the wolf from the desert.

THE DAY BEFORE (AKA NIFTY TIME JUMP)

REGINA:

Daddy was on his way home from his third deployment in Iraq. Mother took Michael away to Vision of the Light Perpetual, where he trained every summer. While Michael was away at camp and Daddy was on deployment, Regina was locked in the tiny white room. That was how the world worked in Mother’s house. But that summer was special because Regina got to spend three whole days with Daddy before he went away again. No Mother, no Michael, just him and her.

Mother always said Michael was better than her, that he was smarter, stronger. He was going to be a knight when he grew up, just like King Arthur or Saint Michael. Regina wasn’t good for anything except repenting.

Mother and Michael left early in the morning, way before dawn so they could arrive in time for afternoon mass. Mother would be gone for three days. Usually Michael liked to spend summer away from the house because Regina’s screaming permeated the walls and interrupted his sleep, but that time his fourteen-year-old brain was enraged and pouty because he would miss Daddy’s homecoming. Even though Mother promised that she would come for him on the weekend and bring him home so he could spend at least a few days with Daddy before his next mission. Michael was too selfish to stop being upset despite the compromise. At the time, he was more aware than Regina of the fact that Daddy might not come home next time. Or if he did, he—or at least parts of him—would be in a box and very, very dead.

Regina remembered Mother telling Michael not to lose faith before dismissing her back to her room to pray until Daddy got home. Regina knew they were going to be gone for at least five hours. She waited until they left, until she could no longer see the car driving down the street, and then she turned on the TV. They only had a TV because Daddy insisted. Whenever Mother was there it was off, but when she was gone, Regina put on the Sci-Fi channel. She watched Army of Darkness until she heard heavy, booted footsteps tromping across the porch.

JOSEPH:

Joseph Slaughter was disappointed, of course, that his son was away, but his daughter was a balm to his soul—he always told her that. And she was so happy to see him, she was blindingly full of joy. She didn’t care that he had been gone gone for two years or that he would leave again within the month. 

But that day was different from all the other homecomings because he was different. Though he picked her up and spun her around the room, though he cuddled her and praised her progress translating Acts from Greek to Latin without looking at the original for help, there was something in his eyes that wasn’t quite right.

Something happened to him out there in the desert, something he couldn’t make sense of.

He knew “demons” were real, the word wasn’t just a metaphor for evil people. While he carried out the will of the most powerful—and sometimes the most bureaucratic—navy in the word, his wife exterminated vampires and werewolves, aka demons, for a splinter branch of the Catholic Church, known as Sanctum. His wife never talked about her work, just like he didn’t. But he knew what she did and what was out there. He just never thought he’d become the thing she hunted.

On his second day back, when the press of the quiet, white walls of their home became too much, he took her hunting. Every so often he’d go out for big game with his battle buddies if they could take leave at the same time. But his favorite thing to do was wake up ridiculously early, burrow down in the rushes of the nearest lake, and wait for the ducks. He loved small game more for the peace and quiet than the killing. After a fitful night of listless insomnia he was so twisted up inside he needed to get out.

Joseph and his wife rarely argued about anything, but Regina’s exposure to the outside world was a subject Catherine could barely tolerate. She insisted their daughter never left the house as part of her training. Joseph, however, said that living like a hermit before she voluntarily made the choice to take her vows was morbid and inhumane. Catherine always ignored the insinuation that Regina’s commitment to Sanctum was a choice and not a duty. A requirement. But while she was gone, he was in charge, and he’d made the decision long ago that he was going to treat her like a normal kid, not a cog in a fanatical machine.

So, early that the morning, hours before dawn, he bundled up Regina in her neon orange visibility jacket and drove down to his favorite spot. As they waited among the water reeds and Normally, Regina would be lulled to sleep again by the song of dragonfly wings on the air as Daddy whispered to her about the things he saw overseas—how many people he killed, what he killed them with—he couldn’t talk about that stuff with just anyone. Some of his squadmates used the various ship chaplains or therapists to purge. He had his little girl, and while Regina had zero oracular powers and couldn’t hear the Vox Dei to save her life, she could hear Joseph Slaughter just fine. 

BACK TO REGINA:

But that morning was different. Daddy was quiet and twitchy. He stared down the sights of his Model 12 Winchester but wouldn’t shoot anything, and he snarled at everything, even the smallest of noises, noises Regina couldn’t hear. A formation of September Teals crossed the sky right above their heads and he didn’t even blink. But when the whole world was still and tranquil he would shoot a round across the water at nothing. It scared her. And she gripped the stock of her little 20-gauge Remington like a life preserver.

Without warning, he jumped up out of their cover and screamed wordlessly at the sky. His voice tore free from his throat in a howl that shattered the stagnant water. Regina had never seen Daddy unhinged. Even though Mother said hunting demons changed men in strange ways, Regina never believed her daddy would change. He was always so solid, so in control. Nothing that Mother said was supposed to bother him seemed to bother him. 

But now here he was, losing his mind.  

Regina tried getting up to follow him as he ran away, but she found she couldn’t move. Something paralyzed her, and she didn’t know what it was, but looking back she recognized it as fear. Fear froze her human body in place when the wolf’s howl tore from his throat.

Eventually, her mind overrode her body’s stubbornness and she was able to stand. She could hear noises from deeper in the wood, and she gripped her 20-gauge so hard she couldn’t feel her fingers. Stiffly, slowly, she walked into the shadows, toward noises that sounded like pain and tearing and blood spilling on the ground. She tucked the stock against her shoulder and, despite the tingles running through her hands, she eased her terror-numbed finger on the trigger.

She didn’t have to walk very far before she found the wolf.

The doe hadn’t been fast enough. The wolf chased her down, felling saplings and uprooting brambles as he ran. He tore her head from her body, and her floppy doe ears drooped with the rest of her doe face against the base of a large oak. Her body lay a few feet away, artfully tackled to the ground and ripped wide open from ribs to tail. The wolf growled discontentedly at the doe’s innards as he chomped them down. At her approach, he lifted his nose from the doe’s pulverized heart and sniffed the air.

Regina did not know how she knew the gigantic wolf was Daddy, but she knew. His transformation was a miracle. He was at least fifteen feet long from nose to tail and stood at least seven feet tall from paws to ear tips. His fur was a burnished honey-tan, a black stripe ran vertically up his muzzle to his forehead. His shaggy neck and massive chest were splattered with blood and ichor. His eyes glowed like golden suns in the gloom of the forest. 

His growling rumbled through Regina like thunder as he jumped away from the doe carcass, quick and effortless, toward her. Regina didn’t feel the impact, she didn’t feel his teeth tear through her orange visibility jacket. His jaws clamped down on her shoulder, and he lifted her small body into the air and slammed her into the ground.

Regina had been a very sheltered child, unlike Michael, who came home from Vision of the Light Perpetual with bruised eyes and ribs, and once even a crooked nose from a break that wasn’t set evenly. Skinned knees were a rarity for her. She had no experience, no words to make sense of the horrific pain his teeth brought to her. The only thing that saved her was her surprise. And somehow, with her free hand, she kept her grip on her Remington. 

As her wolf father tried to tear her arm off, she instinctively lifted the shotgun across her blood splattered chest, stabbed the barrel under his chin, and squeezed the trigger. 

The shot deafened her, but she got what she wanted. The wolf dropped her immediately, jerking his head away and shaking vigorously as if he got splashed in the face with water instead of bird shot. 

She let the terror wash over her. Then she remembered she had a voice and began to wail, crying and screaming like a lost kitten. She cried so hard she didn’t see her wolf father transform back into a human. All she knew was one moment she was on the ground and the next moment he wrenched her up and cradled her in his arms. 

She remembered him crying just as hard as she was, “Oh God! What did I do? What did I do?”

And then another miracle happened. Her left arm, reduced to bloody ribbons by his teeth, stitched itself back together. Muscle flowed seamlessly over bone. Blood coagulated, forming a thick, sticky glue that pulled the tatters of torn skin back into place. The pain faded.

“You turned into a wolf, Daddy.” She gulped for air and wheezed in his arms, he was squeezing her so tightly.

He looked down at her then, really looked at her, blood and tears streaking his face. His eyes were brown again, not gold, and his sandy blonde hair, his face, his bare chest were coated in blood. He ripped off her jacket and pressed his hand to wounds that weren’t there anymore. Only pink scratches remained of the massive bite.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry, baby.” His face contorted into a mask of grief as he hugged her. Then he shook himself and stood, Regina still in his arms, and walked back to his truck.

“Daddy,” she cried, “Daddy! You’re not wearing pants.”

“No shit!” he laughed.