Blades of Sass

By: Robbie Cox

One



“When are you going to stop dancing around Josh and just give in to him?” Eve Hartlow asked her friend as they wandered the dirt roads of Bull Creek. The Florida sun was high overhead, bringing the stifling heat to the wooded community and a sweat to her brow. Still, Eve would take it over the frozen winters up north any day of the week. “I’m not a shifter and even I can smell how the air changes when you two are around each other. Why keep the poor guy at arm’s length?”

“Arm’s length? Trust me, he’s been a lot closer than that,” Alanna Bradbury said with a wink and a laugh. Then she shrugged. “I’m just not ready for that type of commitment yet. I’m a wolf without a pack, still feeling my way around.”

Eve chuckled. “From the sounds coming from your cabin the other night, sounds like you’re doing a lot more than just feeling around. Besides, that poor boy has been panting to get you into his cabin since before I moved here. You really should cut him some slack.”

Alanna giggled as they walked. “I know, but making him pant is half the fun. He’s so cute when he’s being teased.”

Eve Hartlow rested her hand on the hilt of the knife sheathed at her waist as they walked, the oak handle giving her a sense of calm nothing else did lately. “Is that another shifter thing? Some rite of passage? I’m having a hard time keeping it all straight.”

“Nah.” Alanna gave a shake of her head. “It’s an Alanna thing.” Both ladies laughed, Alanna shoving her hands into her back pockets as they continued walking. The breeze, which did nothing to cool them off, tugged gently at their hair. When the laughter died down, she gazed at the knife at Eve’s side. “Sort of like wearing that blade is an Eve thing. What’s the deal anyway? You trying to pick up a hunter? You’ve worn that thing ever since you arrived in Bull Creek and I’ve barely seen you pull it out of that fancy holster you wear. You do grip it a lot, though, like right now. I know we ladies like to accessorize our outfits, but I think you went the wrong direction for wooing a man.”

Eve took a deep breath through her nose in a vain attempt to calm the jitters that churned in her stomach. As the breath escaped past her lips, she shook her head. “I’m not trying to woo anyone. God, what a weird word.” She laughed, the tension leaving her shoulders. “I’m pretty much over men. I prefer the quiet, unattached life.”

Alanna nodded, as if she understood, but Eve knew there was no way her friend could comprehend what she was talking about. She probably thought Eve was jilted by some lover and pined away over a man. Eve Hartlow didn’t pine away for anyone. She preferred her simple life.

Overhead, mallards flew to the east, heading to some lake Eve had never seen. “Is it because of the bruises that painted your body when you first arrived in Bull Creek?” Alanna asked, her tone cautious, as if she knew how sensitive the subject was for Eve. Alanna was also skirting very close to the unspoken rule of Bull Creek—Don’t ask personal questions.

Yet, Eve didn’t call her on it. She appreciated Alanna’s kid gloves with the topic she didn’t understand. While she knew something lurked behind Eve’s self-imposed spinster-hood, that something would remain a secret as far as Eve was concerned. Needed to remain a secret as a matter of fact. Eve didn’t want someone else knowing how weak she once was, regardless that it was a weakness she was determined never to experience again. “I just think it looks good,” she lied with a feeble shrug, sidestepping the whole issue. “Besides, it’s practical. When you’re in the woods, a knife comes in handy. Bane and his coyotes may be gone, but who knows what else is around the corner?”

“Really? We live in Bull Creek. Bane Kastner was the most excitement this place has seen in decades. That’s why Dimitri chose this area.”

Eve had to admit, it was definitely quiet around here. A couple of weeks ago, Bane, a coyote shifter, brought his pack in and attempted to drive the humans out of Bull Creek. Bane was the leader of a mangy coyote pack, a group of bullies who thought humans didn’t belong in the forests. They believed the wooded areas of the world belonged to shifters who knew how to appreciate and take care of all that dwelt within the woods. Bane was a prejudiced bully who was afraid of anyone who wasn’t like him. However, Adira Brennan, a witch who just moved to Bull Creek, and Dimitri Everest, the Alpha of the community, killed Bane and his second-in-command, driving out the rest of the coyotes. Bull Creek returned to its peaceful existence, the residents going about their routine of minding their own business. Eve glanced out of the corner of her eye at Alanna. Well, not everyone minds their own business. She shrugged “I may need to whittle or something.”