For the Soul of an Outlaw 2018

By: T S Joyce

Genie closed her eyes and let the animal, her favorite, favorite part of herself, have the body again. And when she opened her eyes and looked at her reflection in that speckled, flawed mirror glass that reminded her so much of her human side, she thought herself acceptable again.

What did it matter now if she had any human in her?

The crows would never stop their attack on this ranch until Ramsey had claimed her, Colt and Trigger would never understand why she was the way she was, Karis and Ava would always be friends with no room for a fucked-up shifter who was ninety percent animal, and Kurt…

If she could cry in this form, she would, just at the thought of him…

Kurt was gone, and her boy…no…his boy…was gone, too.

And Genie-Tenlee-Genie-Tenlee…she was on the fast track to a short life, so what did pining over a man matter?

She backed away from the red door.

Nothing was gonna fill the hole in her chest. Nothing ever had and nothing ever would.

That was the curse of being an Origin.

Chapter Three

Genie’s legs dangled from the low-hanging limb that she laid on. The last of the snow had melted yesterday, so that was cool. It would be spring soon if the new buds on the tree were any indication. Below, Colt and Trigger were arguing over whether a fart made steam behind a butt in cold weather. Genie rolled her eyes and hated everything.

“That’s why I don’t fart when it’s cold out,” Colt said matter-of-factly as he broke up a bale of hay with a pitch fork. “I would get busted. If it’s warm out, who cares? I’ll rip a freaking dragon roar back there, but if Karis saw me steaming up the early morning air from my south end? She wouldn’t blow me for at least a week.”

“Dude, if we have to talk about your steamy farts for one more minute, I’m gonna Change and eat you.”

“Well, the joke would be on you because I’d probably taste like a fart. I read an article online last week that talked about couples who are comfortable with farting in front of each other lasting for the long haul—”

“I’m out,” Trigger muttered, mounting his asshole black stallion, Harley. “I can’t do this anymore. Talk to Genie about this.”

He kicked the horse and blasted out of the pasture toward the barn. Colt watched him leave, leaning on the handle of the pitch fork, and then he looked up at Genie. “So, anyways—”

Genie got up in a rush and ran down the trunk of the tree. She bounced through the mud until she was out of earshot. That was the disadvantage to being a pet. That man told her any and everything, and especially the shit he should probably keep buried deep in his own head. He didn’t realize it, but he’d basically traumatized her for life with his weird thoughts.

She aimed straight for the cattleman’s cabin with plans to crap on Colt’s pillow like the classy lady she was and then fall asleep in the nesting box Karis had built for her on the wall in the loft. And wait for 4 a.m. when she would stare at that goddamn red door again and think about Kurt and Gunner.

But then halfway to the house, a familiar engine sounded from faraway, and she froze, thinking she, surely, was imagining things.

That sounded like Kurt’s truck.

Genie stood in shock as she watched the black, jacked-up Dodge Ram pick its way through the clearing, spraying up mud when it hit the wet parts. She blinked hard. How many times had she imagined him coming home? Back to Two Claws Ranch, she meant, not home. That was a silly thought.

Oh my God, he’s here.

Kurt’s face was somber as he pulled to a stop in front of Colt’s cabin. She could only see his profile until he shoved open his creaking door and got out. Her little squirrel heart had gone from ninety to nothing and, surely, she would die from it giving out!

He stood to his full height, tall and lean, wearing an orange plaid shirt and ripped-up jeans over boots. He wore a dark brown cowboy hat over his jet-black hair, and he hadn’t shaved in a while, at least three days from the stubble that dusted his jaw.

Looking exhausted, Kurt scanned the clearing and then halted his attention on Colt, who was staring back at him with his mouth hanging open. Colt wouldn’t hear it from where he was, but Genie did. Kurt grunted as he lifted his hand in a two-fingered wave, and then when he forced a smile, it looked more like a grimace of pain. Oh no, oh no. He still smelled body-sick.

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