CW: Strong language, adult situations, violence, gore, and a character experiencing PTSD.
Sims InTouch Magazine
She was choking, muscles spasming, eyes fluttering as if her body was not yet ready to give up the ghost. Panic exploded in her veins as the wolf opened its jaw. Her heart gave one last desperate thump and—
With a sharp intake of breath, Penny sat straight up. Not again. She reached for her mug of coffee, only to find it empty, which—of course. Why did she even bother coming into work? At least at home there were soft pillows to roll onto when she woke up screaming.
“Hey,” Billie tapped on her cubicle wall.
It was a light tap, but it still scared the living daylights out of her. “What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Me? I was just coming by to ask about the Anastasia story. Are you okay?”
“People who are fine don’t usually yell.”
Penny scrubbed a hand over her face. She could say it was the coffee making her jumpy, but that would be an even more apparent lie. “I’m meeting with Anastasia tonight to get a few more quotes. I’ll have it wrapped up by the weekend. And I know it’s late; I’ve just been under a lot of stress lately.”
Billie’s expression softened. “I’m sorry. You’ll let me know if you need anything?”
Real concern? Offers of help? Was this the same woman she broke up with?
“Because this is a big story,” Billie continued, “We already got scooped when everyone else wrote about how she flipped out on you.”
Nope, definitely the same woman. Penny stood and started packing her bag, not trusting herself to say anything more than “noted” before shoving past her ex/boss.
Why were her romantic partners only ever concerned with what she could do for them?
Willow Creek, Goth Household
Mortimer whistled as he waltzed into the kitchen and flipped on the coffeemaker. “Ready to face the demons?”
The bright expression he wore grated on Bella, even though he was clearly joking. He pressed a kiss to her cheek, and she tried hard not to feel resentful. The result of their last argument was that she would fill in more while Mortimer went back to work.
I let you pursue your career, and now I’m asking you to return the favor.
“Glad to do it.” She resisted slamming down her phone before trudging upstairs.
Alexander was the first and easiest to rouse. “Morning, mom! Can I wear my Voidcritters shirt under my uniform?”
“Sure,” Bella ruffled his hair. Smugglesworth Prep probably wouldn’t love it, but then again, she wasn’t the one who wanted the kids in a private school.
Cassandra was next, and the genuine challenge of the morning, but surprisingly the teen was up and ready.
“Have you seen my black boots? Dad said I could go to the cast party after the play, and I want to wear them.”
Shit! The play! Bella forgot that was tonight. “In the laundry room, next to the box with the winter sweaters.”
Thanks? Was this really her kid? “I’m proud of you,” Bella added, enjoying the rare moment of non-angst. “You’re gonna be amazing tonight.” She glanced out the window, “But boots? It’s gonna be hot today.”
“Not to me. And anyways, it’s called fashion,” Cassandra deadpanned. “How does dad know more about it than you?”
Downstairs, Bella stared at her husband, trying to figure it out. Did he really know more about fashion? Cassandra had to be joking.
“You’ll pick up flowers for Cassie before the show?” He phrased it as a question, but it was a reminder.
“Yep, I got it. I’ll swing by the shop this afternoon.”
“Afternoon?” Mortimer’s lips pressed tight. “Why afternoon? I thought you weren’t working today. Bella, we agreed that—”
She held up a hand to silence him while she worked to throttle her temper. “You asked me to get flowers last night, and I said I’d do it. This is my day off, so excuse me if I want to practice a little self-care with a long run before I do errands.”
He flexed his fingers, but gave her a tight smile. “Right, of course, you’ll handle it. I’m sorry I suggested otherwise.”
Her run took her through their neighborhood and down past the trolley station where the suburbs of Willow Creek met up with San Myshuno.
A familiar house came into view, and Bella cut through the garage that she and Penny left unlocked.
It was just a hunch, but she wondered if Penny’s source and the werewolf were one and the same. The tabloid headline made the story sound salacious but what Penny actually wrote was empathetic. The unnamed source gave a series of instructions about how to avoid werewolf altercations which—looking back—she and Penny probably should have heeded. They took great pains to warn everyone about a dangerous black wolf in Oasis Springs. Clearly, they weren’t trying to implicate themselves. So what did they know? Was the black wolf connected to Eliza’s tooth necklace? Was Eliza a wolf?
In the kitchen, Bella started rifling through drawers. She didn’t know jack shit about tracking werewolves, but werewolves weren’t always wolves, right? Sometimes they were sims—
And sims left a record of themselves.