I know, it’s been ages since I posted any news. I’ll consider myself chastised (wink, wink) right after I give you news worthy of my silence!
So, what’s next? Good question. I actually have a few options.
I’ve been working on some alternate stories – still within the Call of the Elements world but not about AJ. I thought it might be fun to find out what the witches think of the fae’s reemergence. And what about all those wolf shifters that Victor’s in charge of? More importantly, what happens to the vampires now that they’re all but leaderless? Let’s face it, Braden can’t do it all.
So first up, The Wolves’ Challenge Series.
Hear My Call is the first book in this series and is all about the shifters. You’ll meet a couple familiar faces, but most of the characters are new.
I hope to have the book published sometime this fall. It’s currently on pre-order – HERE – but the date isn’t set in stone.
Here’s a little snippet from the first chapter written from the main character’s point of view. You guessed it – Jess is a strong, female lead character.
This has not been edited by a professional, so please forgive any grammar errors. Hopefully, there aren’t any….but
Chapter 1 – Hear My Call
I slammed the hood of the old Ford 250 I’d been working on, listening to the engine rumble just like it should. I loved being a mechanic. Taking something broken and making it work again, always felt good. Having that accomplishment at the end of the day made it a whole lot easier to walk in to my broken home each night. Something I could never fix. Not just because it was an old-as-dirt trailer either. No – nothing that easy. My emotional home was in pieces, and there was nothing I could do about it.
So for now, I’d get this old truck back on the road for a paying customer.
“Take it out for a test drive, Danny!” I called to the guy sitting in the driver’s seat with his arm hanging out of the open window.
“Sure thing, Jess.”
The truck slowly inched out of the bay, then crossed our gravel parking lot, disappearing around the corner of the building.
“That your last one?” My boss, Slim, emerged from the office rubbing the back of his neck. Gray stubble covered his square chin and a few hairs still attempted to grow on his mostly bald head.
“Yep.” I picked up a nearby rag and smeared the oil and dirt from my hands. “Unless you got something else for me.”
“Go home, Jess. Get a shower. Then find someone to spend your evening with.” Slim’s blue eyes narrowed at me like they did every single day. He didn’t approve of my solitary lifestyle. He thought he knew the reasons why I avoided relationships, but he really only knew the lie I’d told him.
“Whatever, old man,” I teased, tossing the dirty rag in the pile with the rest. “I have a standing date with some drywall compound.”
I pushed past him, headed to the office to clock out for the day. He followed me, of course.
“Rejected Danny again.” He didn’t ask, knowing I already had.
He pretended like he didn’t eavesdrop on all our conversations, but I knew better. Slim was the father I never had. Even though I’d moved out of his house a couple years ago, he still treated me like the daughter he never had.
“He’s not my type.” I dropped my card into the old-fashioned time stamp machine and waited for the inevitable ‘pop’, trying hard to ignore the stern expression wrinkling the skin around Slim’s eyes.
“That’s a load a shit and you know it. That boy sees past all your bullshit and still likes ya.” My boss leaned against the old metal desk behind him and crossed his arms over his chest. “You can’t keep shuttin’ people out just cuz they care about you.”
I ground my teeth together to keep from saying something I’d regret later. Slim was just as guilty as me. Both of our worlds fell apart the day my mom disappeared. Neither of us let anyone else back in. His reasons revolved around love. Mine were so much more complicated. It didn’t change the fact that we isolated ourselves.
Mom was my reason for living. Breathing. The sunshine in my chaotic life.
When we showed up in this remote town in the middle of the northwestern Texas plains fifteen years ago, Slim didn’t stand a chance. Me and mom ‘people watched’ for three whole days before she picked the tall, lanky man who sold her a used Chevy Impala.
Mom could see people’s souls. Literally. She always said Slim’s was pure goodness. I never doubted her. He took us in and cared for us at a time when we needed him most. Most men would’ve got one look at my thirteen-year-old self and left Mom at the curb. Not Slim.
We’d moved more times than I could remember before stopping here, running from Mom’s past. Each time, her ability to see the evil in someone’s soul saved us. I never realized hers was a paranormal talent until I hit puberty at fourteen. Everything in my already screwed up life became even worse. I found out I wasn’t human and neither was my mother.
In hindsight, I realized my age and transition were why we stopped running.
Mom spent the next four years telling me about the life we ran from.
I realize now she’d left out a ton of details. But at the time, I fought her like the rebellious teenager I was. I hated what I’d become and hated the secrets that came with it. I could never be a normal girl with a normal life. Not that I’d ever had a normal life the way we moved every few months, but after my fourteenth birthday the choice was taken from me completely. I’d always be the outcast, living in a human world but never part of it.
Of course, Slim knew nothing about who we really were. He fell in love with a beautiful woman and her rebellious daughter. He was still heartbroken today, even though mom left us years ago.
I smiled at him now like his comment meant nothing. “When you bring home a woman, I’ll think about taking Danny to dinner.”
Slim’s already narrowed eyes closed and he took a deep breath. We’d had this conversation too many times. Before he could respond, Danny walked through the door.
“Damn, Slim. My stilted love life’s been your fault all this time?”
Danny’s wide smile eased the tension in the room. So did the dimples on each side of his upturned lips. The smear of grease smudged across his cheek didn’t take away from his rugged, good looks. He was a year younger than my twenty-eight but didn’t look a day past twenty-two. I constantly told him to grow a beard so he’d quit getting carded at the bar. He claimed the girls couldn’t fawn over his dimples if he covered them with a facial hair. He was probably right.
“Yep. It’s all Slim’s fault,” I quipped, grabbing my phone and keys from the tray with my name on it. “How’s the truck? Any noises that aren’t supposed to be there?”
“Runs good, just like I knew it would. You never let anything leave the shop broken.” Danny stepped in front of me, blocking my path to the door. “This Friday’s the thirteenth and a full moon. The perfect excuse for letting me buy you a drink at Keith’s Bar & Grill. You can claim you’re weren’t in your right mind.”
I stuffed my phone in my pocket, deliberately avoiding his brown eyes and boyish grin. For all the same reasons he’d just mentioned, I wouldn’t be in town Friday night. I’d be running wild across Slim’s two-hundred-acre ranch. They didn’t know my real reasons, and I wasn’t fixin’ to tell them.
“Sorry, dude. You know I’d just drink you under the table. Besides, I already got a date.”
Both men laughed, but I tossed my glare at Slim.
“A date with a skill saw doesn’t count, Jess,” my boss said. “That trailer ain’t going nowhere and neither is the trim you want to put in the living room.”
“Whatever,” I snapped, tired of this conversation and the two men pressing me to do something I could never do. Especially on a full moon. “Get out of my way.” I pushed past Danny, rushed through the garage, and headed straight for my own beat-up truck.
I could feel their eyes on my back as I went but couldn’t force myself to turn around. I should’ve been more civilized, but I couldn’t tell them the truth. And adding to the pile of lies I’d already fed them, burned a hole in my gut.
My mother’s words echoed through my mind as I climbed into the driver’s seat. They’re human and we aren’t. An honest, open relationship with Danny would never happen, which was why I continued to reject him.
My truck’s engine roared to life, shaking rust from the old frame. I cringed as it ground into first gear. I needed to quit putting off the repairs to my own vehicle.
Shania Twain bellowed from my speakers as I rolled down the windows and pulled out onto the highway. But she couldn’t drown out the memories of my mom now that they’d been dredged up.
I turned up the radio and tried to force visions of my mom’s delicate face from my mind. Just like every other time, I failed miserably. She was there for every part of my life, until she wasn’t. Once she revealed her magic and mine, she told me everything. She was fae and my sperm donor was a wolf shifter, making me something else entirely. I shifted, but my wolf was so much more than it should’ve been.
When I got home one afternoon in the middle of my senior year of high school and she was gone, I knew why. Her past caught up with her, and she ran to keep me safe. To draw away the monsters who hunted her. And I waited for them to figure out she had a daughter.
I probably should’ve moved when I graduated high school, but I didn’t know where to go. Slim didn’t know our past, and I could never tell him, but I couldn’t make myself leave him either. So here I was a decade later, tempting fate.
My old trailer came into view thirty minutes later, just as the sun set behind me. Someone painted the front half a horrible shade of aqua blue. They must have run out of paint, because the back half was covered in a faded mustard yellow. But the roof didn’t leak, and I got the plumbing and electric working.
I paid for the twenty-year-old mobile home, and Slim paid to have the septic and water well dug. He argued the entire time, insisting I could just stay with him. His old farm house had more than enough room, but my need for privacy overrode his need for company. I tried to hide my wolf from him, and it worked until he caught me sneaking in the house at sunrise after a full moon. He didn’t catch my wolf, just my not-human self.
He assumed I spent the night with Danny who lived a few miles away. I couldn’t tell him I spent the night hunting and howling at the moon. So, I let him believe I finally lost my virginity at twenty-two, then started saving up my money to buy the first semi-livable trailer I could find. We parked it against a tree line on the north side of his property, out of sight from the road and the house.
I’d spent the last few years fixing it up. It kept my hands busy and sometimes distracted my mind. It also provided lots of privacy. It was ugly as sin, but it was mine.
I parked the truck and hopped out. A prickle of unease settled between my shoulder blades, almost like someone was watching me. It gave me goosebumps despite the hot August air. I left my phone in the truck in case I needed to leave in a hurry. After a couple seconds of scanning the trees behind my house, I opened the front door. I never locked it, because – really – how many people wanted to cross twenty acres of pasture to get to my broke down trailer?
I should’ve locked it.
Two people sat on the worn, leather sofa in my dark living room. I stood in the doorway giving them a perfect silhouette of my wide, not-at-all-feminine shoulders and almost six-foot-tall frame. The prickle of unease turned into a sharp warning to get the hell out. They were not here to sell me encyclopedias.
“Welcome home,” a husky, male voice said. “Come in and have a seat.”
I laughed, because what else could I do?
“How nice of you to invite me into my own house,” I said, not moving from my spot. “How about you get the hell out? I don’t like company, especially when I didn’t ask for it.”
Neither of my guests budged from my horribly uncomfortable couch. My mind ran through all the possible scenarios and reasons for them being here. The most troubling being my mother. Were these the people looking for her? Had they found her and then discovered me? It seemed most likely.
“What do you want?” I asked, still not moving from my spot at the door.
“You,” the man replied. “Why else would I be in this horrible trailer with no air conditioning in the middle of this awful pasture, sitting on furniture that is more suited for the garbage bin?”
He did not just insult my palace. Okay, it was a dumpy trailer and I’d gotten my sofa from a yard sale, but it was mine damn it.
“You’re welcome to carry your ass back down the highway and leave my dumpy trailer behind,” I snapped. “I’m not keeping you here.”
I swung my arm and pointed at the driveway with a frown. How did they get here? My old truck was the only vehicle sitting in the yard.
Movement from the ever-darkening tree line drew my attention and fear joined the nagging, uneasy feeling that hadn’t gone away. Six more men emerged from the forest dressed in blue jeans and button up shirts like they were on their way to a casual dinner. They didn’t make a sound as they crossed the brittle grass in my yard. Any suspicion that they were human flew out the window when the closest one smiled at me. Long fangs protruded from his upper jaw and his eyes flashed red.
“Holy shit.” I spun on my heels, slamming the front door on the faces of the two in my living room.
I didn’t make it to the corner of the trailer before a strong set of arms wrapped around my shoulders and rode me to the ground. My wolf stirred at the violence and we both growled. My body pulsed with a flood of magic rushing through my veins, ready to shift. My muscles tensed and my wolf howled with pleasure. We’d kill these bastards and bask in the glory of their deaths!
A soft click and cool metal on my wrist acted like the door I’d just slammed on my visitors’ faces. My magic swelled against the sudden barrier, threatening to burn me alive if it couldn’t release. My feral instincts battered my thundering heart, confused and angry at the sudden prison.
My capturer picked me up, his arms still banded around me like a steel trap. I slammed my head into his shoulder, but he didn’t move. My booted foot collided with his shins and he laughed at me. I opened my mouth and screamed with fury, dying to let loose the magic still trapped inside.
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