December 1, 1870

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Goddamn ice.

Goddamn dog, too.

I’d seen the dog running on the ice and knew it wasn’t a good sign. The weather had been touch and go of late, and that meant the ice on Blood Lake wouldn’t be nearly thick enough around the edges, which is where I saw the dog.

The dog, a black pug, raced from the shore to a near island and back again. I tried calling to it, but the little bastard ignored me and raced toward the next island.

I couldn’t wait for the dog to come back to the shore, nor could I bear the thought of it falling through the ice. If the shock of the water didn’t kill it, then whatever merfolk were lingering near the surface certainly would.

With a curse, I checked the tie-downs on my Colts and then headed across the ice toward the island. The cracking beneath my feet was none too reassuring, but I pushed all thoughts of worry out of my head. I’d survived a dip in freezing waters before, and while it was none too pleasant, it wouldn’t kill me.

And the merfolk knew better than to touch me.

Ahead, the pug reached the shore of the island and scrambled up and through the snow-covered bank into the tree line.

With a grunt of dismay, I continued on to the island.

It was a new bit of land that had shown up in October. I’d given it a cursory examination when it first arrived, but there’d been nothing of interest on it.

And, consequently, nothing the dog might be able to eat and survive.

I couldn’t let it starve.

I reached the island and followed the dog’s tracks up into the tree line, down a slight incline and into a narrow path through some granite ledges. When the path opened, the dog’s tracks led into a small house that sure as hell hadn’t been there before.

With a grimace, I walked up to the front door and found it slightly ajar.

I nudged it open with my foot and stepped in to find a petite woman standing a few feet away.

She bowed, gestured toward an ornately carved chair, and said in a low, pleasant tone, “Duncan Blood, I need your help.”

I took my hat off, sat down in the chair and asked, “With what?”

She sat down opposite me, smiled and answered, “With killing.”

I nodded.

Killing was something I could do.

#paranormal #christmas

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Nicholas Efstathiou

Husband, father, and writer.

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