Strong Fort Spathí

By Heather C Wright

Paranormal, Fantasy

Paperback, eBook

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5 mins

Prologue – Footsteps in the Dark

Sinikka glanced behind her as the bus pulled away from the curb. She could have sworn she heard footsteps, but there was no one there. Shrugging it off as paranoia after four hours spent discussing the magic of concealment with one of her father’s colleagues at the university, she turned toward home. Walking at her usual brisk pace, she kept her head up and shoulders back. Even as small as she was, an attacker was less likely to strike if she appeared alert and attentive to her surroundings.

She glanced both ways down the sidewalk as she took the steps up to the entrance to her apartment building, pulling her keys from her pocket as she went. There was almost no one on the street. A man from the next building was leading his dog away in one direction, and she thought she saw someone on the stoop two buildings down smoking. It was almost nine, so it didn’t really surprise her that there were so few people out.

Slipping inside she stopped at her mailbox, but found it empty, which seemed strange. She usually got five or six letters a day and a package almost every other day. She still did most of her work as a translator and cultural expert via correspondence. It created a lot less problems than dealing with anyone in person.

As she took the stairs to her third story apartment, she could swear she heard the echo of steps following her own. Frowning, she paused at the second story landing. It was utterly silent.

She could almost hear her mother telling her not to worry so much and Jordan telling her not to ignore her instincts. Hers were almost as good as his after all, and werewolves were very instinctual creatures.

Smiling as she thought of her best friend, she took the last flight of stairs quickly, careful to keep her heels from making any noise on the stairs.

The weird echo didn’t return, so she shook off the unease it had caused. Flipping through her keys so she had her apartment key out when she got to the door.

She remembered the cool feel of the keys in her fingers, and the soft jingle they made against each other, but she never remembered actually unlocking the door.

Chapter 1 – Missing Person

Jordan tried calling Christopher’s cell again as he drove to the office. It went straight to voice mail.

“Damn it.” It took all of Jordan’s control not to throw the phone across the car. He dropped it into the seat beside him and made the turn onto the main road. He’d spent almost half an hour hunting around Sinikka’s apartment building for any sign of her. It was like she’d vanished into thin air at the apartment door. She must have been coming back from campus, because it smelled very faintly like one of those specialty teas she liked to get at the organic coffee shop.

It didn’t take Jordan long to get to the office, and he parked in his usual spot. Christopher’s car wasn’t in the lot, but Robert’s was. They sometimes carpooled, so Jordan headed inside, going up the back stairs to check Christopher’s office first.

Jordan growled when he found the office locked tight. Christopher wasn’t here. He’d told Jordan he’d be at the office for another couple hours when Jordan left at four. Where the hell was he?

Leaning his head against the door, Jordan tried to calm down. Usually he had better control than almost anyone in the pack besides Christopher. Panic wasn’t helping.

“Jordan?” Robert asked. “I thought you left early on Fridays.”

“I do,” Jordan answered. He ground his teeth together, trying to keep from snapping at Christopher’s second in command.

“Did something happen?” Robert asked, putting a hand gently on Jordan’s shoulder. “You look wrecked.” His voice was soft, the soothing murmur their ippótês used when he needed to talk someone down.

“Sinikka’s missing,” Jordan bit out. The panic threatened to overwhelm him again. He couldn’t even be sure how long she’d been gone, but her cell was going straight to voice mail, the apartment phone rang until the answering machine kicked on, and she hadn’t answered any of his four emails from the day before.

“Your spathí?” Robert asked, sliding his arm across Jordan’s shoulders. The pack hadn’t seen much of Jordan’s spathí since they moved to town six years ago. Despite that everyone knew the girl was the daughter of a renowned witch who had an alliance with their pack.

“She’s not at her apartment, and isn’t answering her phone,” Jordan answered. “She always answers her phone, or at least texts me if she can’t.”

“She wouldn’t just be out? Or have gone on a short trip without telling you?” Robert asked.

“No,” Jordan snarled, jerking away.

“Easy,” Robert said, holding both hands out in an attempt to placate the other wolf. He’d never seen Jordan have any kind of control issues. He was one of the people they could trust to keep it together enough to rescue other zooanthropes from the drunk tank at the local precinct.

“She always tells me when she’s going away. Especially with her parents out of the country. She wouldn’t have just left without telling me.” Jordan was livid. How could Robert even suggest that Sinikka would be so flighty and irresponsible?

“Any other local friends she might be with, or have said something to?” Robert asked, keeping his voice as neutral as possible.

“No. Almost all her friends aren’t local. She corresponds, belongs to on-line groups. She knows almost no one in town except family.” Jordan wished Sinikka had made more of an effort to make friends when they moved from Delphi, but she’d been happy to keep the ones she already had.

“You’re obviously upset about this,” Robert said. “I get that.”

“I was looking for Christopher, to see if he could help,” Jordan said.

“He’s tied up with some pack business,” Robert said. “Why don’t we sit down in your office, and you can tell me as much as you can about your spathí, and where she would normally be, and we’ll go from there?”

Jordan nodded and turned toward his own office door. He knew he needed help. The police wouldn’t get it, and wouldn’t even take a report until she’d been missing for another 23 hours, so he didn’t see the point. The pack could find her a hell of a lot faster anyway. He’d know if she was outside pack territory. The problem was, that was the only thing he knew for sure. She could be hurt or unconscious. Unless someone made her bleed, or her injuries were life threatening, he’d never know.

He sat down at his desk with Robert in the chair across from him.

“Let’s start with the easy stuff and work our way through everything you’re comfortable telling the pack,” Robert suggested. “Her full name, a good description, where she would normally go, her routine, that sort of thing.”

Jordan sighed. Christopher ran a good pack. And Robert was the most reliable and compassionate ippótês Jordan had ever met. He was a good man, and good wolf, and he really was the next best thing to their Archêgós in an emergency. It was time to trust his pack, Jordan decided.

“Her full name is Sinikka Anwen Priddy,” Jordan started. He proceeded to tell Robert as much as he could think of about Sinikka and her usual activities: her job, freelance translator; her routine, which changed weekly if not daily; places she frequented, Jordan's place, her parent's house, and the university; and people she saw regularly, basically just Jordan.

“I’ll get the word out to the pack,” Robert said when Jordan was done listing off everything he knew. “If you have a picture I could distribute, and maybe a shirt or something she left at your place for those who haven’t met her?”

“I’ll email you a picture,” Jordan said, reaching over to boot up his computer. He knew there was at least one somewhere on it. “I’ll have to see if she left anything. She usually doesn’t.”

“Everyone knows your scent, so they’ll at least be able to use that,” Robert replied. “Do you need a ride home?”

“I drove, I’m good,” Jordan said. He found the picture he needed and emailed it to Robert. It was from his first year working for Christopher, when Sinikka had come to the office Christmas party. She hadn’t changed a bit. Standing with Jordan in front of the tree, her long glossy black hair stood out against Jordan’s red shirt, and her bright blue eyes glittered as she smiled happily. She’d been so thrilled that he’d found a job working with other zooanthropes so he didn’t have to hide so much of himself. It could still be hard, even though they were a protected group now.

“You don’t have anything more recent?” Robert asked, looking at the picture on his phone.

“She hasn’t changed,” Jordan answered, turning to meet Robert’s questioning gaze.

“She looks twelve.”

“She’s just petite,” Jordan answered, smiling at how he parroted Sinikka’s usual answer. “She always has been.”

“Okay,” Robert said, getting to his feet. “You head home and talk to your roommates about all this. I’ll start coordinating the pack and talk to Christopher as soon as he’s available again.”

“Thanks, Robert,” Jordan said as he shut the computer down.

“No problem,” Robert replied, coming around the desk to give Jordan’s shoulder a squeeze. “She’s your spathí. She’s as much pack as you are, and we look out for our own.”

Jordan just nodded. With his pack to help him, he could handle this. He could find her.

About the Author

Heather lives in North Carolina with her husband and their black cat, both of whom she adores. She currently splits her time between her day job in the IT world, her family, and the worlds in her head. She has been creating those worlds for more than fifteen years and still manages to get lost in them periodically. But it’s okay, everyone knows her there.

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