Authors: MaryJanice Davidson
Table of Contents
Praise for the novels of
“A hilarious romp full of goofy twists and turns, great fun for fans of humorous vampire romance.”
“Delightful wicked fun!”
“Move over, Buffy, Betsy’s in town and she rocks!…I don’t care what mood you are in, if you open this book you are practically guaranteed to laugh…top-notch humor and a fascinating perspective of the vampire world.”
—ParaNormal Romance Reviews
“One of the funniest, most satisfying series to come along lately. If you’re fans of Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, don’t miss Betsy Taylor. She rocks.”
—The Best Reviews
“Undead and Unwed is an irreverently hilarious, superbly entertaining novel of love, lust, and designer shoes. Betsy Taylor is an unrepentant fiend—about shoes. She is shallow, vain, and immensely entertaining. Her journey from life to death, or the undead, is so amusing I found myself laughing out loud while reading. Between her human friends, vampire allies, and her undead enemies, her first week as the newly undead is never boring… A reading experience that will leave you laughing and ‘dying’ for more from the talented pen of MaryJanice Davidson.”
—Romance Reviews Today
“Chick lit meets vampire action in this creative, sophisticated, sexy, and wonderfully witty book.”
BERKLEY JAM titles
by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi
01 - Jennifer Scales and the Ancient Furnace
02 - Jennifer Scales and the Messenger of Light
03 - The Silver Moon Elm: A Jennifer Scales Novel
Other Titles by MaryJanice Davidson
Undead and Unwed
Undead and Unemployed
Undead and Unappreciated
Undead and Unreturnable
Undead and Unpopular
Undead and Uneasy
Dead and Loving It
Sleeping with the Fishes
(with Laurell K. Hamilton, Rebecca York, Eileen Wilks)
(with Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor)
Dead and Loving It
(with P. C. Cast, Gena Showalter, Susan Grant)
(with Emma Holly, Vickie Taylor, Catherine Spangler)
The Silver Moon Elm
A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL
MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi
BERKLEY JAM, NEW YORK
THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the authors’ imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2007 by MaryJanice Davidson Alongi and Anthony Alongi.
Cover photo by Tim Robberts/Getty Images.
Cover design by Lesley Worrell.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the authors’ rights. Purchase only authorized editions.
BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
BERKLEY JAM and the JAM design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
Berkley JAM trade paperback edition / June 2007
The silver moon elm: a Jennifer Scales novel / MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi.—Berkley JAM trade paperback ed.
Summary: Almost immediately after learning yet another devastating family secret, fifteen-year-old Jennifer awakens in a universe transformed by werearachnid sorcery, in which weredragons are long extinct, and she must try to find a way to change everything back.
[1. Dragons—Fiction. 2. Arachnids—Fiction. 3. Metamorphosis—Fiction. 4. Science fiction.]I. Alongi, Anthony. II. Title.
PZ7.D283224Sil 2006 [Fic]—dc22
For Annie and Jessica,
who make our universe
that much more pleasant to be in.
Have love for your friend up to a limit, for it is possible he may turn into your enemy some day;
and hate your enemy up to a limit, for it is possible he may turn into your friend some day.
—ALI BIN ABI TALIB
It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.
Lying on her belly and sobbing, Jennifer Scales wanted to die.
The crescent moon slid peacefully through the twilit sky, shedding enough light on her surroundings for Jennifer to lose all hope.
There was no refuge in this forest. The foreign sounds of unknown things filled the air, murmuring a restless siege. She sat up at the gathering noise and tried to collect herself. They were closing in. Maybe a minute left before the end.
Friends? None left. She thought of them all—Susan, Eddie, Catherine, Skip—and a new wave of despair crashed over her with the memory of each one.
Family? Jennifer began to cry again at the thought.
And there was no place else to go.
Her tear-filled gaze went up to the crescent moon. She cursed it under her breath. So much pain had come into her life since she had discovered its power.
She released herself from dragon form, for what she knew would be the last time. Back in the shape of a fifteen-year-old girl, she felt around with her hands for a sharp fragment of stone. Lifting a small, jagged rock in her hand, she thought wistfully of her beautiful daggers. She had lost them. She had lost everything.
Holding the stone firmly in her right hand, she held out her left wrist. She flexed her fingers and watched the blue veins shudder under her starlit skin.
I miss you so much, Mom. You, too, Dad.
The noises in the forest were closer. She could make out movement in a few of the taller trees. They would be upon her in seconds.
She pressed the sharpest edge of the stone against the skin, saw some blood seep out…and then abruptly stopped. Gritting her teeth, she removed the rock from her wrist and stood up. Not like that, she promised herself. I won’t do it for them.
“Come on!” she screamed out to her predators in the dark. The stone felt fierce in her hand. “Come on!”
She did not see the attack come from behind.
The Previous Saturday
This is almost as good as flying, Jennifer Scales thought to herself ecstatically with gray eyes closed.
The November wind whipped through her shoulder-length platinum blonde hair, good music washed over her numb ears, and the sunlight shone on her reddening cheekbones. It was chilly, to be sure—but she had a sweater, jacket, and scarf to keep most of her warm.
She snuggled farther down in the Ford Mustang convertible’s leather passenger seat and turned to the driver.
“So how often does your grandmother let you use this car?”
The dark olive features of Catherine Brandfire lifted from the attention of the road long enough to flash perfect teeth at her friend. “All the time, when I’m not grounded.”
“Like you are today?”
Catherine laughed. “You know this weekend was an exception. Besides, if I know her at all, Grammie Winona will be more annoyed at you than me!”
Jennifer bit her lip. This much was true. At fifteen years old, she was already a legendary figure among her people, a unifying presence who blended all three dragon races and more. Most weredragons forgave a lot about her—not least the fact she was half beaststalker because of her mother. While beaststalkers were among the sworn enemies of weredragons, Jennifer Scales was an ambassador between the two peoples.
But that didn’t mean everyone in Crescent Valley was going to be happy with what she was doing.
Turning to the backseat and the three friends shivering under several coats and blankets with goofy grins, she lingered over the face of Eddie Blacktooth, her childhood friend and a young beaststalker. Eddie’s sharp nose and soft brown eyes stared back at her, sparrowlike. He smiled at her and she smiled back, thinking of the strange turn of events that had wounded his mother, Wendy, alienated his father, Hank, and led him into the guest room at her own house.
This weekend’s trip to Crescent Valley would be a landmark of sorts—the first time in her people’s memory that a beaststalker had come to the most hidden and sacred of dragon refuges. Winona Brandfire would welcome Eddie, Jennifer knew. After all, it was the eldest dragon who had suggested such contact.
Susan Elmsmith—Jennifer’s best friend, shivering next to Eddie—would probably also get a gracious reception. At least Jennifer hoped so. Susan was neither dragon nor stalker—she was 100 percent American girl, with no additives or preservatives, as the two of them occasionally joked. In any case, Jennifer wouldn’t keep Crescent Valley from her friend—after more than a year of hiding uncomfortable truths, she had resolved there would be no more secrets between them.
Jennifer broke from her reverie, realizing her friend was looking back at her. Oh! “Uh…”
Susan blindly wiped her nose on her own sleeve, which sent her brown curls bouncing around panicked blue irises. “Have I got something on my face?!”
“Yeah, my fingers.” The passenger on Susan’s other side reached over and lightly pinched her nose, causing her to snort and giggle. Jennifer turned all the way around in her seat to flash him an affectionate grin.
It was, she considered, the warmest reception he’d be likely to get for some time. The eldest of all dragons had given no permission for the third visitor her granddaughter and Jennifer were bringing with them. Skip Wilson was a werachnid—another one of the sworn enemies of weredragons, whose oversized spider and scorpion shapes emerged under the same crescent moon as Jennifer and Catherine’s people. Jennifer knew she was taking a chance in bringing Skip to Crescent Valley. She knew some dragons—maybe even Winona Brandfire—would be furious with her.
But she didn’t care. She was sick of secrets, and sick of hiding parts of herself from her friends. Crescent Valley was part of who she was. Skip was her friend—and might have been more, she remembered ruefully, had she been more forthcoming with him in the past.
Full disclosure—the way to go. Weren’t their high school English literature classes full of long, boring examples of characters who would have fared much better had they pursued a policy of honesty? Didn’t modern singers generate hit ballad after hit ballad where a love was lost due to deception? Didn’t movie stars play one forgetful (and eventually regretful) liar after another? As the lyrics or plot always revealed, cover-ups never worked. Secrets were the butt-biting boomerangs of modern pop culture.