Hard To Bear

By: Georgette St. Clair

Blue Moon Shifters: Hard To Bear

Chapter One

Blue Moon Junction, 1813

“Elizabeth! Elizabeth!” Her brother Jedidiah’s impatient cry drifted across the field. Fifteen year old Elizabeth Holmer crouched down in the tall grass, grinning. He was terrible at playing hide and seek. He’d been looking for her for twenty minutes.

“Elizabeth! Where are you?” he bellowed.

She crouched lower, hiking up the hem of her skirt and her apron over her knees. Her mama would tar her behind if she dragged her clothes through the dirt. Her sun-bonnet tilted forward and she pushed it back in place.

“Fine, then! I’m going back to the house!” he shouted petulantly.

What a cry-baby, she thought scornfully. And he was two years older than her.

She glanced at their big cypress log house up on the hill. She’d been careful to keep it in sight, because of the odd sightings that had been reported around the town recently. Wolves that walked like men had been spotted out in the deep woods, it was rumored. Some people even claimed that they’d seen Old Man Hoskins loping back to his house in the form of a wolf, and turning into a man in the clearing right outside of his house. And he was naked. She giggled at the thought.

She wasn’t anywhere near the deep woods; she was in the open grassy field near her house, so she should be safe, she figured.

Still, she was getting bored, and she needed to pee. And there was cream that needed to be churned to butter. She stood up slowly, brushing grass from her apron. Best she head over to the outhouse, and then go back to the house where she could tease her brother about –

A growl sounded in the grass off to her left. She froze where she stood, and then very slowly turned towards the sound.

The grass was rustling. Her heart leaped into her throat, choking her. Should she make a run for it? Was there something in the grass that would chase her if she ran?

A large gray wolf burst through the grass, fur bristling, amber eyes glowing. Elizabeth choked back a sob of terror. The wolf’s eyes seemed to be fixed right on her throat.

She was about to scream for help, when a second wolf burst through the tall grass, and her scream died in her throat. If she cried out, her brother would grab the rifle and run out to help her. There was one bullet in the rifle. He’d have to be lucky to hit the first wolf, and even if he did, the second wolf would tear him to pieces. Her parents were too far away to help. They were at their neighbor’s new homestead, helping to raise a barn, leaving her brother in charge of her and their younger brothers and sisters.

Tears filled her blue eyes and ran down her cheeks as the wolves crouched down low. She wouldn’t make a peep, no matter how much it hurt when they were killing her, she vowed. Then maybe the wolves would run off into the woods and leave her brothers and sisters alone. Her heart broke at the thought of her family finding her body in the grass. Who would help their mother rock the baby to sleep at night?

An enraged growl tore through the air, and to her shock, the first wolf lunged through the air at the second wolf. The two wolves rolled on the ground, growling and snapping. She backed away slowly, glancing at the house, praying her brother wouldn’t hear.

The fight was over almost as soon as it began, and the victorious wolf stood over the body of the other wolf, jaws dripping with blood.

The dead wolf, oddly, had shreds of clothing hanging off its body. Plaid cloth, like a man’s shirt.

There was something dangling from the surviving wolf’s neck. Elizabeth’s heart nearly stopped with the shock when she realized what it was. It was a braided leather necklace with a cross made from two twigs dangling from it. It was the necklace she’d made for…

“Cyrus? Is that you?” she demanded. The wolf turned to look at her, its muzzle stained red and dripping. Its eyes glowed strangely, but it remained silent, panting heavily.

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