I lifted the large glass to my lips and took a generous sip of rich red wine, savouring the taste. It slid down my throat in a fruity, warm, soothing motion, and I smiled happily and returned my attention to the conversation. Occupying the chair at my left side was my gay best friend Simon Bunce, manager of the Ship public house in which we sat. He was swigging whisky from a glass tumbler, which surprised me since his usual drink was lager. Recently he had turned to hard liqueur, around the time his beloved alpha, Danny Mason, returned home and reclaimed control of the Redcliffe wolf pack. Simon was smiling and telling a joke, his pale blue eyes sparkling and his shaggy blonde hair framing his face in waves, shaking with his movements.
Sally Frost was sitting opposite us. She is Simon’s fellow lieutenant to the Redcliffe pack. The petite blonde woman sat demurely at the table, her fingers playing with a wine glass, her eyes on her friend as he spoke. I glanced around the busy pub, noticing that it was mainly full of local residents tonight. The tourist season was coming to a close, and there were only a few straggling visitors to our town now. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming, much nicer than the cold, dark caves of the wolf lair that lay hidden beneath the pub and in the cliff face that it backed onto at one side. Even the bar staff seemed relaxed tonight, perhaps because their alpha was absent and they could stand down for a few hours without fear of punishment for neglecting their duties.
“Jessica,” I heard Simon speak beside me, “Hey, Jess, wake up!”
Shaking my head, I blinked my eyes and turned my face to his, smiling.
“Sorry, Simon,” I replied, “I was miles away.”
“So it seemed,” he said with a wink at Sally, “Are you with us now?”
I hesitated, listening to my animal familiar as she stirred in her enchanted forest deep within my psyche. A magnificent snow tiger, Suri was prowling among the frozen pine trees, but she ignored me, which meant I was safe for the moment. She only seemed to communicate when she wanted something, or when I was in danger. I blinked again and turned my body more towards Simon, picking up my glass and sipping more wine.
“Yes,” I said, clearing my throat, “I’m here. What were you saying?”
Simon shook his head in mock disappointment.
“My jokes must be rubbish,” he said in a false sad voice, “You completely zoned out.”
“Never mind her,” Sally chimed in jovially, “I’m listening to you, Simon.”
Sally caught my eye and pulled a face, and I smiled warmly, sharing her meaning. We both made a great show of humouring Simon, to which he reacted like a grumpy teenager, making us all laugh. I relaxed again, dismissing the lingering feeling of unease that had been haunting me all evening. Instead I listened to Sally’s tales about her work as a nurse, and Simon talking about his latest favourite computer game and the exhilarating surfing session he had enjoyed earlier that day.
“Jessica,” Suri’s voice cut through my head suddenly, sharp and urgent, “Jessica, you must leave now. Elizabeth is in danger.”
Love Redeems (A Redcliffe Novel) is book 3 in the Redcliffe Novels series. All books are widely available online and in bookstores internationally. There is currently a special offer price on Kindle now.