“Wear this,” she told Alex, her eyes hooded and strange, her face lifted to his, her mouth warm and reddened from his kiss, and handed him a looped Egyptian cross of gold, “next to your heart.”

“How?” said Alex. “Flesh isn’t magnetic. How’s it going to stay on?”

“Try it and see,” she said, and closed his hand around the cross, kissed his fingers closed.

He pressed it to his breast and the point ran into his flesh as effortlessly as a hand into water. His heart was racing. When he took his hand away, the cross stayed there, half hidden among the thick black hair that swathed his body. He looked up at her in wonder. “How?” he grunted. “Why?” His face was sliding, his teeth lengthening and sharpening.

She looked down at him, and a smile was in the corners of her mouth. “Because I want it to,” she said, and lashed his side with her stick, sent him crashing away into the bushes, fear-smell, blood-smell, the golden wink of the cross riding inescapably against his belly. Behind him she laughed and laughed and he heard the rising call of the hounds, the hounds…