Colder Than a Witch's... Chapter 1


Colder Than a Witch’s …
Chapter 1
A Comics Retcon Story

by Maggie Finson


This is a comics retcon, as the headings said. I'm doing a take on the Witchblade with this one. Incidentally Witchblade is owned by Image comics or whoever owns that trademark now. This story is not for profit and in no way is trying to supersede the original story. I hope you enjoy it.


Chapter One


I’d found it!

Finally, after years of reading obscure and almost indecipherable manuscripts, and chasing even more obscure rumors and legends I was finally looking at the object I’d spent much of my professional life hunting.

It was like Galahad seeing the Holy Grail. Finally, vindication for all the years I had spent in libraries so old the dust could choke you when you moved a volume, for the ridicule I’d put up with from my peers over my ‘hobby’, and for spending years searching for something more elusive than Noah’s Ark.

I could reach out and touch it, the object of my academic desires and fantasies. But I didn’t dare do that. The Witchblade had been created for a female to wield, and killed any male foolish enough to try that.

And the beautiful thing was calling to me, inviting me to not only touch it, but to slide the intricate, but harmless appearing bracelet over my hand so it would settle around my wrist in a delicate beauty that would be so out of place against the thin but hard male body part it would be around.

And I knew that if I did that, gave in to the sweet, compelling singing in my mind, that I would die in a very unpleasant way.

But I had a very compelling reason to give in and put the thing on.

If it didn’t kill me, I could save a lot of people’s lives. And if it did, I wouldn’t be any worse off in the long run. I would have simply chosen a slightly messier death than dying under the fire of submachine guns.

With a sigh of resignation, I reached out to take the thing off the altar-like table it was resting on.

That was answered with a thrum of power that filled the rude rock chamber with a joy I’d never felt in my life, and much to my shock, that power was filled with anticipation, and urged me to put the thing on.

Three months earlier:
Faculty Lounge, Kansas State University, Manhattan, Kansas.

K-State wasn’t famous for archeology, or sociology, being a school known for engineering and agriculture, but it did have decent departments for the first two even if they did get lost in the shuffle of academic priorities. I’d come to the Flint Hills of Kansas because the Dean, and my department head, would put up with some of my more esoteric ideas and searches for things no one believed existed.

“Hey, Clyde!” Ginger Calvert, one of my grad students and my TA in Archeology greeted me as I sat by myself nursing a cup of coffee and going over the syllabus for the next introduction to Archeology class I was stuck with doing, and slid into to booth beside me. “How’s things, prof?”

“Not good, Ginge.” I answered while frowning at the things my laptop insisted on telling me. “I hate trying to get underclassmen interested in ‘digging up dead stuff in inhospitable places’ which is basically what this class is. I’m supposed to get some eighteen year old who is away from home and parental control for the first time in their lives interested in something besides getting laid or drunk and all I have to work with are textbooks drier than the Sahara and about as interesting as photos of that desert when nothing is happening weather-wise.”

“Hey, you caught my imagination, Clyde.” She reassured me and smiled.

Ginger was a girl who could have melted any man’s brain with a little smile. Her real name was Leona Calvert, so I could understand why she had accepted Ginger as a substitute for that. Her hair is what gave her that nickname, a red that wasn’t quite fiery, but was too brilliant to be called ‘rusty’ or ‘carrot color’. She wore it short, at chin level and styled in what they used to call a bob, but it framed her oval face perfectly.

I looked into her vivid green eyes and reminded myself about how much trouble even a tenured professor could get into by ‘playing’ with a student even if she was in graduate studies. “I always did tell you that you were one of the weird ones, Ginger.”

“One of the smart ones.” She countered with a grin that lit up her delicate features and gave her almond shaped green eyes a light that made them dance with the emotions she was feeling. “Who the Hell wants to be a business major when they could be going to exotic places and finding things that people haven’t seen or even thought of for centuries?”

“Someone wanting a normal life.” I countered.

“Cheerleaders. Ughh.” She responded. “Office girl, executive, whatever. Booring! I want adventure, or at least the outside trappings of that. I want to see things, do things, that most people just dream about providing they can even imagine them.”

“And you’re going to get that from Archeology. Right.” I answered for about the thousandth time. “We aren’t Indiana Jones, you know. What we do is mostly boring, and repetitive, and hard work that not many people know enough to appreciate, even the ones who do pay attention to what we find.”

Ginger settled her lithe, five foot six form into the chair beside me and grinned. “But we’re learning about what people DID, how they lived, what they made of their lives and the things they made to make those lives possible!”

I did my best to ignore her very enticing 34Cs that were even more prominent from the side than they were head on and shook my head. “Like I said, you’re weird. But so am I. We are likely going to spend our lives searching out things that no one else really cares about, and you deserve better than that, you know.”

“I’m doing what I want to do, professor Haines.” She answered with an impish grin, mostly because she had snuck a finger in under the table to tickle my bottom ribs. “I know where I’m going, and what I’m aiming for. Weird or not, that’s how it is.”

What she was saying, not that she wasn’t interested in archeology — she was and had been one of my best students, was that she had plans that involved me in her future. And I wasn’t all that averse to the idea when I let myself think about it.

Though I couldn’t even start to figure out why that was. I was so average, or less than average on the man scale that I had never dared dream that a girl like Ginger would even look at me with anything other than kindly contempt.

Oh, sure, I was a full professor, a tenured teacher at a big, and if in the right fields, prestigious university. At something less than forty years old. But I was a failure with women or even life in general if it wasn’t centered around academics.

Not that I was bad looking, or anything. I didn’t look like a wimp at all with my well toned physique — thanks to time in the gym that let me ignore other social obligations I just seemed incapable of handling. I was what the girls called ‘buff’ these days with my five foot ten frame and well muscled body, face that looked like it had been chiseled out of stone to represent some ancient deity, and sure, graceful movements. I was the picture of a man’s man and one most women would have been happy to have paying attention to them.

But that appearance was a lie.

I’d never been comfortable with how I looked, not even before I’d matured. I wasn’t sure why that was, though I had suspicions, and even clear thoughts about it. But I was a man and that was all there was to it. I couldn’t change that and even if I had the nerve to try things that would answer the yearning in my soul, the results would have looked ludicrous in the extreme. So I kept those secret wishes buried deeply, even while envying the girls I taught and watched while I was educating them to the best of my abilities. So I hid all that with intent studies, and eventually, teaching, along with searching out some of the mysteries time would cough up from some desert or jungle for contemporary humans to look at and wonder about.

Until Ginger showed up.

Somehow, that bright, bubbly, beautiful girl saw through all my defenses, discovered what made me tick, and why that was, without being at all intimate. She did it through conversations, watching, and just being there from the time that red headed freshman girl had decided to take every class I taught.

She didn’t mock, condemn, or make fun of me at all once she’d pried the awful secret out of me, either. Just hugged me and told me that sometimes things just didn’t work out quite like people wanted them to, but they did work out if that person was patient. That conversation happened just after her graduation and acceptance into the grad program.

And God help me, I loved her. For the first time in my life I loved a woman and wanted to be a man for her.

But she was still my student, so we had to be careful.

Which amounted to denying what both of us wanted to do until she finished her graduate studies. Others had done what we wanted to do, and gotten away with it, but even if the illicit part of the thing held some allure, both of us wanted to wait until we could openly show our love for each other and actually get married to consecrate those feelings.

“So why are you so cheerful this morning?” I questioned while getting my mouth around the rim of a cup of espresso.

“Oh, I don’t know.” She grinned again then passed a sheaf of papers across the table to me. “Maybe because I found something about your pet project that might interest you?”

Nodding without answering, my ‘obsession’ with a mythical object was one of the few department jokes I was the butt of, I started scanning the information on the printed out sheets she had brought me.

Then widened my eyes, sat back, and had to make myself breathe. “Is this accurate?”

“Yes.” Ginger gave me a serious look. “The Potawatomi tribes in the area have legends of a warrior woman who would appear when they needed miracles, and she saved them more than once, though they don’t tell people that. I had to do a lot of digging to get this information. The tribe won’t admit, deny, or do anything but say it’s just a legend even to them. This figure helped them even before they were brought to Kansas from the Great Lakes area.”

“And what good does that do if we have no proof?” I asked.

“Read the last page.” She told me. “The woman who had that power the last time is buried less than sixty miles from here.”

I was electrified.

The mythical Witchblade was something that appeared throughout history, apparently in random sequences, but always wielded by a woman, and always powerful enough to defeat whatever danger it had come to confront. Whoever held the thing became a warrior that no one could defeat without supernatural assistance. Joan of Arc had wielded it, but given it up as the devil’s work just before she had been captured and burned.

Other women, unknown to history had used it. And every time it was wielded, some important thing in history had happened. I’d been tracing those instances for my whole professional life.

And now I had a chance, only a chance, to find at least something connected to that legend. And it was less than sixty miles away.

* * * *

Burnett’s Mound in Topeka was a strange thing. A large hill among small ones, the Flint Hills had dwindled into rolling hills as you moved east, that had the reputation of turning the plague of the plains — tornadoes — away from the small city that was the capitol of Kansas.

That had been true, until 1966, when an unusually large tornado had either split to go around the mound, or just jumped over it to hand out destruction like the apocalypse on the town for the first and last time something like that had happened. Topeka had been declared a National Disaster Area and made the national news following that tornado.

Coincidentally, there had been a secret burial at Burnett’s mound just a month before those horrific events took place.

Kansas loves its universities, and the state government lets them get away with a lot of things private citizens couldn’t even think of asking.

So my request to do a dig at Burnett’s Mound got approval from the powers that be even before the K-State PTB okayed the plan.

But there were people watching the dig who weren’t from Kansas, or just interested in gaining knowledge.

The information Ginger had found was not hard to find if you knew what you were looking for. And far less benign entities than a university were interested in what I would find at that dig.

Topeka, Kansas

Which brings us back to now.

I’d assembled a team, with Ginger as my second in command, so to speak, arranged for protection from the curious with the Topeka police, and started the dig at the spot not only Ginger’s information, but something inside me said was the place to look.

And we found a limestone lined chamber inside the mound that was obviously a tomb.

A recent tomb. This one wasn’t ancient, or even old. Ginger shivered while we set up the lights that would enable us to work inside. “This place seems new, but I know it’s at least a hundred years old.”

“It does feel kind of fresh for a tomb, doesn’t it?” I answered. “Weird as that seems, let’s keep our goal here in mind and worry about that later once we’ve studied the layout of the thing and gotten it diagramed properly.”

“Professor C,” The quiet, reverent voice of Kaylee Simms, another of my grad students called from a raised area at the rear of the tomb. “Look at this.”

She and another student, Harold Kent, had stopped photographing the tomb and its contents to just stare at something on that raised area as if looking at something so surreal that it defied words to describe. Ginger and I went to join them and I felt a thrill of something that was nearly fear once we had.

Her bones looked frail, and you would think they would have broken in a high wind. But the fetishes and honors adorning her tomb put the lie to that impression. This woman had been a power, one that an entire tribe honored and had gone to the trouble of giving a traditional, ritualistic burial to acknowledge what she had done.

But the jarring thing was the slim, golden bracelet with a huge red gem as its centerpiece on the bones of her wrist.

“That’s like no Native American work I’ve ever seen.” Kaylee breathed.

“More like something out of ancient Mesopotamia, or Egypt.” Ginger agreed.

It was a thing of beauty, with delicately twined strands of gold wire braided together into one piece but beautiful as the workmanship was, it was merely the setting for something else. A brilliant red gem that possessed the luster and internal fire of fine ruby. That gem almost seemed to pulse with a life that defied description.

I had found my Holy Grail.

Then Hell came to kill that wonder.

* * * *

“Congratulations, Professor Haines.” A quiet, cultured voice interrupted our wonder and I turned to see a group of four armed men spread out around the rather nondescript fellow who was speaking. “You’ve made the discovery of a lifetime, no of the century to be honest.”

“Who are you?” I questioned, probably not the most intelligent thing to come up with at the time, but a natural enough reaction all things considered.

“Call me Rourke.” The man smiled almost benignly and nodded at the raised area behind me. “You could say we share a lifelong obsession, Professor. I’ve been searching for the Witchblade for over twenty years, myself. I owe you a great deal of thanks even if it is a pity you had to find it first, but at least it has been found. Now please stand aside so one of my men can retrieve it and no one will be harmed.”

“That’s a priceless artifact you’re talking about just taking.” Kaylee interrupted, pale but determined to tell these interlopers what was what. Worse, she was moving towards them.

“Kay, no.” I warned her as Rourke’s henchmen began to raise their weapons. I’d seen that kind before when on digs. Cold eyed, silent, and deadly. Though those had usually been bandits, or bodyguards for a local potentate in some third world country, not supposedly civilized bodyguards for a rich man as these were. But the eyes gave them away and chilled me to the marrow. “Don’t provoke them.”

“Wise, Professor Haines.” Rourke nodded with a thin smile. “Now stand aside please. I won’t ask any of you again.”

It actually looked as if we’d get out of this alive for a few moments there.

Then another voice entered the situation. “Police! Put down your weapons.”

Things went to hell very fast after that.

“Oh, I don’t think so, officer.” Rourke shook his head while two of his four henchmen turned with a speed I found almost supernatural and sprayed the entrance with automatic weapons fire. I saw two police officers go down under that withering fire and the two goons not taking care of that raised their own weapons towards us.

I could only watch in horror as if I was seeing some slow motion sequence in a violent action movie. Only this was no movie.

My students hit the floor and scrambled for the scant shelter they could find in the largely wide open area, except for Ginger. I watched in an agony of grief and impotent rage as several rounds hit her in the chest, throwing her back and into the niche where the last wielder of the Withchblade rested. She and the fragile bones bounced back out with a hollow clatter and heavy thud, knocking me down in the process.

“Ginger!” My voice was hoarse and I realized I’d been screaming as I looked into blankly staring green eyes already clouded in death and reached out to at least touch her one last time.

And that bracelet, the thing that had led to the death of the woman I loved fell into my hand as if it had planned to get to me from the start. With an insistent, almost desperate demand that I felt rather than heard, to put it on and save what I could. But the legends all agreed that it killed any male foolish enough to try that.

Things went from just terrible to mind numbing then.

I felt bullets impacting me, but the pain I felt went far deeper than the physical just then, and my head was filled with a thrumming, anticipatory joy of release that burned as if molten rock was running through my veins and taking over my nervous system.

All I could do was endure, and scream in agony as the fire washed over, across, and through me while desperately clinging to the idea that at least Ginger and I had managed to die together.

Then the pain was gone, replaced with a sense of satisfaction that I knew wasn’t coming from me while I pushed myself off the uneven stone floor and managed to stand up in spite of the wounds I knew my body had taken.

“What the Hell?” I whispered hoarsely, and even that whisper sounded wrong, as wrong as my body felt while I found my center of balance and forced myself to start moving.

Something was around my right wrist, hugging that part of my body like a second piece of flesh that had suddenly been grafted on, and I not only felt, but heard the power surging from that into me, down my arm, and going somewhere beyond my hand with a sense of savage joy that was completely alien to anything I’d ever felt before.

“Interesting.” Rourke watched me and nodded. “This is everything I was led to believe it is.”

The bracelet was around my wrist, and felt as if was welded to my flesh. I took time to look and couldn’t credit what my eyes told me was happening.

It was glowing, and that glow ran outwards from the wrist to enclose my hand then extended past that. Part of the glow faded, but my right hand, and half of my forearm was suddenly wearing an armored gauntlet. With something extending from my closed hand like one of the fencing blades I was used to handling, but less solid, while strangely feeling a lot more solid than a thin epee.

I could literally see the rounds leaving the weapons Rourke’s henchmen were using, and those were slow enough that I was able to move out of their paths or on one occasion, contemptuously swat one away. With a shimmering, silvery blade that had extended from my hand. A blade that was surrounded with clouds from disturbed air and had actual miniature lightning bolts playing across its surface. The wind that thing raised should have knocked me on my butt, but managed to not affect me.

These people had threatened, and even killed people who were dear to me. Before I had time to even think, or register what I’d taken in with overloaded senses, I screamed like a banshee and moved to make them pay for the pain they had caused me.

The blade reached out, and left the goons staring at the halves of their weapons in each hand once I’d finished that first attack. The glowing, howling blade reaching outward from my clenched fist had neatly bisected their weapons without the least resistance.

“Very good, young lady.” Rourke nodded and I could see both approval and wonder on the man’s face as he said that. “You’ve awakened the Witchblade and it’s doing your will. For now.”

I ignored him, swatting at the killers with the weapon I shouldn’t possess or be able to wield, I tried using the flat of the blade just to stun them, but this weapon had no surface that wasn’t deadly. Four men died from my actions that day.

Rourke nodded with a slow, beatific smile and reached behind his shoulder to draw a weapon of his own that hadn’t been obvious before.

“Give it up, dear.” He urged me. “No one who has held that thing has come to a good end, and people they loved suffered because of it. It drains you, eats at your soul, it will empty you out in time. Give it to me and I’ll let you live.”

“You can’t kill me and you know it.” I grated out, stunned by what had happened to his henchmen, but still raging. “If you want the Witchblade, take it. I won’t give it to you.”

“Ahh, the Meek shall inherit the Earth.” He nodded with a little smile. “Once the ones like us are gone, anyway. Please reconsider my offer. I would even be willing to work with you on this. We could be a team, not enemies. I want to study the Witchblade, you have it. I would make it worth your while, if you’d agree.”

“You killed my friends.” I answered a lot more calmly than I was feeling at the time. “Why would I join up with you?”

“To learn.” He told me with a shrug. “To discover just what it is that you’re wielding right now and how it works. We don’t have to be enemies.”

I could never work with you.” I shot back and the thing extended from my hand sang with exhilaration and anticipation.

“So be it.” He nodded and took an ordinary Ken-do stance with his own sword held above his right shoulder and poised to strike or counter. “Oh, I’m also known as The Swordsman, and have studied the art my whole life. Come to me, Witchblade. Test me. Show me your power.”

His weapon, a Dai Katana, I later learned, met the weirdness from my own hand, and deflected it. I stepped back and took a moment to just look.

“Ahh, I put part of myself into my blades, dear.” He answered on seeing my bewildered expression, but I was bewildered without that added bit. Why did he insist on speaking to me as if I were female? “Even your vaunted weapon won’t break the steel in my hand.”

We exchanged a few flurries, and I knew my fencing experience was badly outclassed, yet the Witchblade countered every attack he made. But it couldn’t get past his defense, either.

Sirens were audible in the distance and getting closer, smething he noticed while commenting. “A fencer. Then you have the background for what you carry, even if it’s rather inadequate.

“I have to go now, but do remember what I’ve told you, young lady. That thing will eat you alive and devour your very soul. Better to give it up before it kills, or abandons you.”

“I’ll find you.” I was either promising or threatening, just wasn’t all that sure which one it was.

“Oh, of course you will, dear.” He grinned at me. “I look forward to it, and bear in mind that I’ll be looking for you at the same time.”

Then he was gone. Just gone. The guy didn’t walk away, or run, or use any of those hokey ninja tricks you see in the movies. He just went somewhere else.

Great, my first introduction to a Meta Human and he had to be one of the bad guys even if he did come across as a guy easy to like.

Things more or less went away after that. I didn’t even feel myself hit the hard stone floor.

* * * *

I awakened in a bed surrounded by soft beeping sounds.

“I think she’s waking up!” A familiar voice penetrated the fog that had me wrapped in soft, suffocating folds of cotton. “Get the doctor in here!”

I didn’t know who that person was talking about, so just worked on getting my consciousness to the stage where I could let someone know that not only that mysterious ‘she’ was waking up.

I felt a hand holding mine, and noticed the pressure it was giving me, tentative but insistent as the voice, which I finally recognized as belonging to Kaylee urged me. “Come on, Ginger, open your eyes.”


Why was she urging Ginger to wake up? I’d seen Ginger die, held her lifeless body and cursed the heavens and anyone else who would listen when I did that.

I opened my eyes, to see nothing other than blurs for awhile. When that cleared I noted something in the way and impatiently tried to move a hand to get it out of the way.

“I’ll get it hon.” Kaylee soothed and moved the offending obstacle from in front of my eyes. “You’ve been tossing and turning so much your hair just won’t stay out of the way.”

Hair? Mine had never been longer than a few inches. How could it be long enough to cover my eyes? Had I been out of things that long?

“Oh, sweety.” Kaylee gave me a happy smile. “I’m so glad you’re awake. We thought you were going to die for so long.”

What the Hell was going on? I was more confused than just waking up in a hospital could account for. Why was one of my students talking to me as if I was a peer, and a female one at that? And why was she calling me Ginger?

I managed to return the squeeze on my hand, and made myself smile. “I’m alive.”

The voice sounded all wrong, but the joy on Kaylee’s face when I used it kind of pushed that worry aside. She hugged me, carefully, but that hug told me things that my up to then unacknowledged senses hadn’t. Nothing felt the way it was supposed to. When Kaylee’s small breasts pushed into my chest, they met a softness that yielded like no man’s chest should do.

The places that took me were too much. I didn’t fade out of awareness, I fell out of it.

* * * *

The next time I woke up there were more people around me and I heard comments about some kind of miracle. I stirred, because things were uncomfortable, my back wasn’t flat against the bed as I was used to, and my butt felt swollen while there were weights on my chest that I’d never felt before, and those weights moved when I did. “What’s going on?”

“Oh, you’re awake again, dear!” A woman in uniform, a nurse my fuddled mind finally announced with a glee much too intense for such a simple observation gave me a long searching look.

“Awake.” I marveled then added in just the same tone of amazement. “Alive.”

“Yes darling.” The nurse answered with a smile. “You’re our very own miracle, you know that? You shouldn’t have lived after what happened to you.”


“You were shot, dear.” She told me. “One lung punctured and your heart had been nicked. It took a lot of work to keep you with us.”

“Ginger?” I questioned.

“That is what your friends call you, dear.” The woman answered then got a concerned look on her face. “Do you remember that?”

“Yes.” I nodded, just playing along then asked. “Mirror? Please?”

“You’re still beautiful hon.” She assured me with a pat to my shoulder. “Even if you’re a bit on the wan side just now, but hang on, I’ll get one for you.”

She left the bedside for a few seconds and returned with a hand mirror. Holding it in front of me she gave me an encouraging smile. “There you go honey.”

“Me.” I stared into the image that hateful thing gave back but no matter how much I tried to deny it, the picture wouldn’t go away.

“Yes, sweetie.” The nurse thought she was helping. “That’s you, and you’re a very lovely girl.”

The reflection I was seeing was Ginger, with longer, redder hair, but Ginger. Not me, not the familiar, angular, male face I had been seeing in mirrors since I’d reached puberty.

I gave it up at that point and sank back into the comforting blackness of unconsciousness.

* * * *

I got out of the hospital several weeks later. Disoriented, shocked, still not quite believing what I saw in a mirror. But I wanted out of that place. So I pretended that the person I was now had been something I’d been used to for my whole life. My mind had played and replayed horror stories about what would happen if I insisted that I was a forty year old male professor of Archeology instead of what the body I inhabited now said. So I just did my best to accommodate the expectations others pressed on me.

Insane as this was, I had no wish to spend the rest of my life in some mental institution because I insisted that I was someone my physical appearance denied.

“How you doing, Ginge?” Kaylee questioned as I fidgeted in the wheelchair any hospital insists that discharged patients had to ride as part of the rites of getting out into real life.

“Okay.” I answered with a smile I didn’t really feel.

“It’ll get better, hon.” She softly told me while giving me a hug while we waited for the car Harold was bringing around. “We know you loved him. So did we.”

“Not the same.” I quietly answered, still getting my head around being a female, let alone in the body of the woman I’d loved more than life itself.

“I know.” The girl nodded and I felt bad about the tears in her eyes as she did that. But she brightened, with effort and gestured to my right wrist. “You know no one could get that thing to come off? They even tried to cut it.”

“It reminds me of — Clyde.” I answered while staring at that odd piece of jewelry still firmly set on a wrist I hadn’t yet allowed myself to accept as mine.

“Yeah, you fought whenever anyone tried getting it off you.”

“I won’t ever part with it.” I answered almost dreamily while the object in question gave a little pulse against the flesh it surrounded.

“Not that people haven’t tried to make you do that.” She nodded then gave me a shadow haunted look. “I SAW what you did with it, Ginger. What it did. Harold and I told the police and university authorities that we didn't find anything other than the body and honors with it. They wouldn't have believed the truth if we'd told them, anyway. Which leaves us with what do we do now?"

“I’m still figuring this one out, too, Kay.” I answered and was saved from more when Harold got the car to the access and I needed to work on actually standing up, moving, and getting into the vehicle.

Then they took me home.

* * * *

I got used to the apartment Ginger lived in as opposed to the house Clyde had known. I even got used to dressing in her clothing. But to be honest, they fit, and the colors went with my new complexion and hair.

But every time I looked into a mirror, or caught my reflection in a window, I was jolted. Clyde Haines had died in that tomb, riddled with bullets, but Leona ‘Ginger’ Calvert had survived that horrific attack. And the lovely bracelet she — me — was never without thrummed with barely restrained power.

“Damn you.” I told the thing almost good naturedly. I’d gone well past the shouting, railing against fate, and denials. “Did you have to get me the way you did?”

Someone very precious, not just to me, had died to make the person I was now and I understood some of what Rourke had been telling me in that tomb.

But I wasn’t going to give in to either him, or circumstances. I would live. I owed her that much at least, and more.

“Rourke.” I looked into the distance as the sun set over the Flint Hills. “I’m coming for you.”

Something answered, saying the man expected no less and was looking forward to the event even while his people were hunting for me. I needed to move, and change my identity — again, but this time without the body switch, because of that.

But even while I was being hunted, I was also hunting. I wasn’t just prey. I was a hunter, or in my new circumstances, huntress.

I would find him, and then there would be a reckoning.

Oh yes. And such a reckoning it would be.

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