Stop spreading the news. There's no leaving today! Not when the Big Apple falls prey to an infectious worm threatening to rot it, and the nation, to the core.
Michael Andrews' plans on settling down and giving up the vigilante lifestyle are short-lived when hatred, fear, and monstrous attacks from the neo-Nazi Proud Fighters for America start spreading uncontrollably.
With Michael's powers nullified in his girlfriend Lex's presence, the couple is forced to divide in their attempt to conquer, and Michael turns to his ex-girlfriend's knowledge of the occult and an ally he'd first believed to be his enemy to fight this rising evil. But will three supernatural humans and one paranormal scholar be enough to vanquish the growing legion of evil?
"This book is as fun as it's inspirational as romantic as it is thrilling and as deep and filled with values as it is long. Mark Leslie knows how to entertain, educate, and steal a good laugh from his readers."– Julio Carlos, Scribblesworth Reviews
"Awesome blend of darkness and humor with a story you love because you can relate to the characters and feel as if they are old friends that you want to hang out with."– Roseofprey (Amazon)
"Action-packed, emotional, and entertaining, author Mark Leslie's "Fright Nights, Big City" is a must-read paranormal mystery thriller and the perfect next chapter in the Canadian Werewolf series. The twists and turns the narrative takes and the shocking finale that will have fans gasping in surprise will have readers hooked and in desperate need for the next chapter of the series."– Anthony Avina Blog Reviews
Prologue: Wolves on a Plane
I was used to waking up naked in strange places with foggy memories of what I'd done the night before when romping around as a canine.
It's amazing how accustomed one can become to the strangest things. But those odd moments, the things we never thought we'd get used to can, over time, evolve into habits, rituals. They might even become comforting in a bizarre way.
This time I woke in a sitting position. The feel of clothes on my body informed me of something important: it must not be that time of the month for me. When the moon is at 80% or more, my body undergoes a metamorphosis from a six foot-two two-hundred-pound male Homo sapiens into a six-foot long Canis lupus.
As consciousness returned and I took in the sounds and smells around me—the base low rumbling of engines I could both hear and feel vibrating through my bones, the recycled air, the sweat, perfume, halitosis, heartbeats of more than a hundred other humans in a tightly closed environment—I remembered I was on a plane. It was a flight from Los Angeles, where I'd spent the past several weeks. I was returning home to New York.
The scent and distinct heartbeat of the traveling companion sleeping beside me brought an immediate wave of warmth and passion. It was Alexandria. Lex. She was, of course, more than my traveling companion. She was my partner, my lover, my confidante. Meeting and getting to know her just a few weeks earlier had been a significant turning point in my life. She'd come along at just the right time for me, as I had been rejected, again, by the only woman I had ever truly loved up to that point in my life.
Prior to my trip to Los Angeles, my dear friend and former girlfriend, Gail, had made it clear that, despite how we both felt about one another, there wouldn't be a return to our earlier relationship. That part was over.
Getting away from New York, and from the serial rejection of Gail, seemed to be just what I'd needed. And exactly what my literary agent, Mack, had intended when he forced me on that work trip as a script consultant for a movie based on one of my novels.
Damn, I hate when that gruff, crude, cigar-chomping loud-mouth was right. He wasn't a pleasant man to be around—he came about his nickname of Mack "the knife" Halpin quite honestly—but he had never steered me wrong in all these years.
Mack surprising me with the trip to LA had come at exactly the right time; and I'm not just talking about my emotional life. The trip had been scheduled, without my knowing it, almost exactly between the lunar phase cycle that would have me turning into a grey wolf.
It meant I could be human and not worry about the lycanthropic change the entire time I was hanging out in Hollywood.
And during that time, I had met and almost immediately fallen in love with Lex.
We shared a roller coaster of adventure, fearful encounters with a few nasty characters, and in-depth explorations of one another, both physically and emotionally.
I couldn't have even imagined meeting and loving someone like Lex on my flight out to LA, but here she was, such an integral part of my life that she was leaving everything she knew behind to be with me in New York.
No, it wasn't as simple as that.
We were distancing ourselves from a disturbing group of people she had gotten mixed up with. Terrible people. Evil people. A racist hate-group cult that also possessed oddly supernatural powers.
I might have the heightened senses, strength, and agility of a wolf, even when in human form, because of this inexplicable curse running through my veins; and I might have been able to take out a few bad guys over the years—petty thieves, bullies, attempted rapists, even a handful of mobsters. This was a side-effect of my boy-scout tendencies, likely derived from reading too many Spider-Man comic books in my youth. But I was not prepared, equipped, or trained to take on such a group.
I realized, after a few encounters with this group where I'd been over-powered, and where my meddling led to the death of an innocent bystander, someone I considered a friend, that I was in well over my head.
I needed to leave dealing with this hate group, the neo-Nazi Proud Fighters for America, to the professionals, the police, the FBI, the special task force assigned to tracking and stopping them.
And I needed to focus on having a life again; building a new life with Lex, this amazing woman who had given me a new outlook on life.
When Gail and I had been together, I'd kept my werewolf nature from her; and that deception had led to the dissolution of our romantic relationship. She'd been previously lied to, deceived, cheated on, one too many times in her life. My unwillingness to share my secret other life wasn't something she could get past.
But with Lex, despite a bit of a rocky start, I revealed the deception about my true nature before it could tear us apart. Because we both had been hiding supernatural secrets.
Not only had Lex loved me despite my awkwardness, faults, and emotional scars, but her presence came with a most welcome side-effect. When I was with her, my heightened wolf senses and powers faded.
Which meant that I fell in love with her in the depths of normalcy. I didn't have insights into her emotions through her scent or heartbeat or any of those obvious tells. I had to navigate my feelings for her, and her feelings for me, like an everyday human.
It felt amazing to feel so normal, and yet so extraordinarily blessed by being with Lex.
We had figured out, by accident, that Lex possessed a strange ability that caused bad luck to harmful actions directed towards her, as well as a side-effect of nullifying my special senses and powers. It only seemed to work when I was near her. The effect faded when she was asleep, like she was now.
But it meant that when I was with her, I could be a normal human. I could live a normal life.
Well, apart from the fact that, for about ten days every month, I morphed into a wolf.
Lex was the first person with whom I had willingly shared the details of my affliction. Technically, she was the second. But the first person I told was in a situation when I had no other option—because the change was coming at me like a freight train—and I had no choice but to explain what she was about to witness.
But with Lex, it was voluntary, and built off the mutual trust and late-night in-depth conversations and sharing.
She had confided the details of the violations of her own morals by joining the PFA in order to try to save her best friend from their clutches. And how, despite leaving, they had still maintained a hold on her, and power over her.
We relayed the curses we had both been living with alone and became stronger for the sharing of those experiences. Because we no longer had to bear those curses on our own. We had one another. And we were on our way to building a new life together.
Among the sounds of murmuring voices of the other passengers, I heard the pilot speaking. It wasn't on the intercom, though. My super-enhanced hearing was picking up his voice talking to the co-pilot. He was talking about the heat wave in New Jersey and how the thinner air would make it more dangerous to land. Flight take-offs and landings had been delayed, and they needed to circle over the greater New York area waiting for the sun to set and the air to cool down enough before they'd likely get the go-ahead that it was safe to land.
This wasn't good. Because timing wise, tonight the moon was expected to be at 82% in New York City. Lex and I had devised a plan on how she would help me get to a safe location to change into wolf form shortly after we landed.
But this new delay, staying in the air until after the sun set, that would not go over well.
I don't think that this airline was prepared to deal with any sort of wolves on a plane scenario.
I opened my eyes, just as the pilot was coming on the PA system to announce this update to the passengers.
Lex woke as the pilot made his announcement.
"What do I do now?" I asked Lex, when he finished sharing the delay that would mean landing after nightfall. "Lock myself in the restroom?"
"I don't know," she said.
"Oh," I said, feeling the tingling and ringing sensation in my head, the aura that I knew meant the change was about to happen, coming over me. "It's happening now. It's happening early."
"The altitude must be causing an altered reaction," she whispered.
I looked down at my hand, the one Lex was clasping, and watched incredulously as tufts of fur grew out of the back of it. Simultaneously, I felt the tautness of my arm muscles stiffen and jerk.
I had never been conscious of the change into wolf form before; I had always blacked out and never experienced it happening.
This was different.
Lex and I stared at my hands as my fingers retracted and the bones of my hands compressed.
It was excruciating, and I let out a squeal of pain.
What the hell was happening? Why was I experiencing the change consciously? With the pain I was feeling this early in the process, was it even possible for me to maintain sanity while it was happening?
There's no way a person could remain of sound mind experiencing this intensity of anguish.
I looked into Lex's eyes, tried to tell her I loved her, but my lips no longer worked. My face was distorting as my jaw started to elongate.
She didn't look horrified about the creature I was turning into; she appeared empathetic; and the scent rolling off her was of love, compassion, and concern for my well-being.
"It's okay, Kal. I'm here. I've got you. We've got this."
Her words were soothing, and I focused on them as the pain in my body and my entire head intensified. She started calling me Kal that first night at the bar where we'd met. Her full name was Alexandria, but she preferred to go by Lex. So instead of calling me Michael, she nicknamed me Kal. It was short for Michael as well as for Kal-El, the name Superman had been given at birth. It was our little inside joke of Kal and Lex being partners.
I closed my eyes, prayed that Lex would be okay in dealing with the bizarre repercussions of her travel companion morphing into a wolf in the middle of a flight. And all without the help of Samuel L. Jackson.
Suddenly, the pain retreated.
The aura, the tingling, the crushing pain in my bones, all faded away. I looked back down at my one hand that had been morphing into a paw and saw it was reforming back to its normal size and shape. The tufts of fur had returned to regular dark human hair on the back of my hand.
I moved my jaw as I tried to speak.
"It's... not happening," I said. "I'm not changing."
"Thank God," she said.
"No," I said, realizing what was happening. "Thank you, Lex."
"What do you mean?"
I thought back to the odd things I'd witnessed her doing that led us to believe she had a bad luck curse. How, when she was conscious, my paranormal senses didn't work around her.
She didn't just possess a good luck charm aura that protected her from harm. She also could completely neutralize magic and the supernatural.
Lex herself was the charm to the curse I had been living with for years.
When I was with her, I could be one hundred percent human and normal.
All the time.
No more nocturnal escapades in canine form.
Talk about an amazing new chapter in my life.
"It's you, your charm," I said. "It isn't just reducing the side effects of my enhanced wolf powers as a human. It's working to allow me to maintain my full humanity.
"It's you, Lex. You're giving me a new lease on life."
I paused and grinned at her as the horrible pun came to me.
"Or maybe I should say a new Lex on life."
"Why don't you just stick to writing mystery thrillers and leave the comedy to the professionals?"
"Lex my love," I said. "I'm going to do more than that. I'm going to leave the comedy, and the heroics, to the professionals."
She squeezed my hand and I lost myself in her beautiful eyes as the Rush song I'd been thinking about on my flight to LA just a few weeks earlier came back to me.
Fly by Night.
"Change my life again, indeed." I whispered.
"Change our lives again," she replied, and kissed me.
The plane remained in the air, circling the city I had fallen in love with years ago, for another hour and a half. Lex and I held hands as we looked out the plane window together.
Her face beamed so magnificently as she marvelled at the view of The Statue of Liberty from the air.
"Oh Kal," she said. "It's spectacular."
"It sure is," I said, realizing how much I missed seeing that beautiful sculpture, not that I'd seen it from the air very often. I realized that being with Lex was going to give me a whole new perspective.
Lady Liberty, like Lex, was a glowing beacon of light in the midst of the dark water. The flood lights lit her from below, and her torch gave off its own light. But there was an additional light hitting her from above.
I tilted my head to look up and see the almost full orb in the sky and realized how long it had been since I'd been able to look at a full or mostly full moon; well, at least in this human form, with a consciousness I could remember.
Lex squeezed my hand.
"You haven't seen that in a while, have you?"
"No," I said. "I haven't seen a full moon in years. I've never seen a full moon over New York City. And there's nobody I'd rather share that experience with than you."
I turned to see her looking not at the moon, but at me. Her face was beaming, so filled with unadulterated joy at watching my reaction to seeing the moon. I had no special heightened sensory input on what she was feeling; no scent, no heartbeat indicators.
But I didn't need any of that.
I could see it in her eyes. I could feel it in the way she squeezed my hand.
"This is one of so many amazing things you bring to my life. I love you, Lex."
"I love you, Kal."
That heightened mutual passion continued to grow as we sat there silently, holding one other's hands and staring out the window.
It remained as the plane landed and we disembarked along with the other passengers, keeping our hands clasped tightly almost the entire time.
Now that I'd found her, I didn't want to let go.
We made our way, in that same fashion, through the terminal within the flow of the crowd, a part of them, and yet uniquely alone together, on our way to the baggage claim area.
The pounding of passion in my chest for Lex seemed to grow exponentially with each new beat of my heart. Here we were, starting a new life together, in my city. She knew who I was, what I was, and she not only loved me, but her proximity allowed me to live a normal life.
Just when I thought my burning and throbbing heart might burn a hole through my chest, I was hit with what felt like a jolt of cold water.
As we were standing in a tight crowd of people gathered around the luggage carousel, I looked up and recognized a stunning brunette woman hustling in our direction from across the room. From over thirty feet away, I could make out the mixture of tension, concern, and confusion in her beautiful green eyes.
And I knew exactly what she'd been worried about.
She not only knew I was a werewolf, but she was familiar with the cycles that affected me. And it was more than an hour after sundown on the night of a near-full moon.
What the heck was Gail doing here?