My next dark fantasy book release is nearly here! By now, you must be aware that Calling The Wolf will be released on the 24th April. That’s less than a week away!
And, as a special treat, you can read the prologue and first chapter of this dark fantasy book for free! Right here! And right now!
So, without more ado, here’s the free excerpts I promised!
Calling The Wolf
Prologue: Cat Song
The sandwich dropped from her hand. Ravenous, she hadn’t questioned the slightly stale taste at first, after all, the werewolves weren’t going to give her a banquet and, after days without sustenance, she couldn’t be picky. But now she realised that there had been something unequivocally wrong with the food.
Melisande scrubbed her hand against the dirt wall, trying to prop herself up as her head became heavier and heavier. She blinked thickly, coming to the conclusion that they’d doped the food.
She should have realised. Her hands shook, but she forced fingers down her throat, trying desperately to get rid of the mouthful she’d managed to swallow. It didn’t want to come and she could already feel her legs turning to lead. Sound echoed around the walls, shrieks and sobs of fear, but it blurred and buzzed before Melie could untangle it into separate voices of concern.
And then the bars to her cell were scraping back, a pair of huge boots waiting.
She tried to push up, tried to stand, but nothing was working and her eyes could barely focus any more. Laughter crackled, sticking pins into her brain. She managed to focus on his gruff face, the slivers of yellow in his cold, hard eyes. The grizzled beard was the same but the roughly hewn lips were smiling.
“I told you that nobody tries to leave, but you didn’t listen, did you, puss?”
A shriek of pain escaped her lips as his boot stomped down on her hand, crushing joints and breaking bones. Tears prickled her eyes. Her nostrils widened as she tried to suck in steadying breaths, her fingers in excruciating pain.
“Being new isn’t an excuse, girl.” He wriggled his foot side to side, further crushing her hand into the floor and drawing screams of pain from her lungs. “You were warned and still you won’t comply. Do you know what that means?”
“Please?” she sobbed, hysterical. His foot finally lifted from her hand, the relief momentary as the boot flew through the air and collided with her stomach, toppling her onto her back. She hit the ground with a thud, instinctively balling her body up. Blood trickled from her smashed hand. She clutched it close to her chest, sobbing.
“Please isn’t going to cut it. We have to make an example of you now.”
She tried to crawl away, to the back of the cell, but an emotionless fist clasped around her hair, dragging her backwards. Thickset knuckles cracked into her jaw, tearing out such a yelp from her throat that it made the other cells fall silent. Hair follicles wrenched with pain as he dragged her across the floor and out of the open door by her tresses.
Whispers hushed and shining eyes focused on her from between bars. She could feel the pity and terror boring into her as she lay, half curled, in the muddy, underground corridor in front of their prisons.
“I’m sorry,” she whimpered, salty tears finding their way down the crevice beside her nose and dribbling across her trembling lips. “Please? I’m sorry. I’m so s-s-sorry.”
His foot connected with her stomach again. Once. Twice. Three times. And he kept going until her ribs cracked and her face bled. Purple and burgundy bloomed around her eyes. Breath heaved, strangled and strained, through her smashed nose and constricted chest.
Through the blood in her vision and the violet swelling, Melie could only see out of one eye. Her view was a young panther girl. The kid’s face was as white as paper, starkly outlined against the black metal bars. Without a doubt, Melie knew this would be her final view. She knew it, but she wished the girl didn’t have to see it, too. So, with what courage she had left, Melisande drew a smile to her cracked and bleeding lips.
The werewolf was talking again. He was telling them that this was what happened when they disobeyed. He was telling them that this would happen to all of them, no matter how special they were, if they broke his rules.
Melisande let the words blur into nothing. She held the gaze of the young girl, keeping that brave smile pinned to her lips, her cheek pressed in against the mud. The young teen swallowed. Melie wished she could do something for her.
And then that boot came crashing down again, splitting her skull like a watermelon.
1. Eye Of The Panther
I lifted my muzzle to the air, letting the scents roll in. Nature had never been my thing, per se. Cars, on the other hand. Cars had more than held my fascination. And fixing things. It had always relaxed me to tinker with a good, old, manmade engine. But right now, the great outdoors was probably the most soothing thing I had. Especially when I’d been fired from my job at the garage and couldn’t toy with the machines any more.
Another deep breath and I opened my eyes, feeling the soft whisper of long grasses brush against my sides. The air was cool, scattered with aromas of the late night.
I rolled my shoulders. Tension rocked there. Hopefully a work out would loosen everything up, so long as I could stop thinking human thoughts and start thinking wolf ones.
Violet’s voice kept running over and over inside my head. I’d lost my job a little while ago, partly from the media fiasco where they’d announced I was a murderer (not true) and partly because I’d been bitten by a werewolf and survived the gene mutation.
And how was that transformation going? Well, I just had to keep putting one paw in front of the other until my life started to fall back into place.
Except, that wasn’t so easy to do with no job and a sudden shrinkage to your social circle. The heartily increased appetite didn’t help either. I mean, who wanted to go out for a snack with someone who’s version of a snack was to snaffle a whole roast dinner and still have room for more?
And then there was Jenna to think about.
My paws stretched in the dirt, stubby wolf toes spreading and then flexing their claws. I’d thought that maybe I’d found something good out of this whole werewolf thing when I’d fallen in with her, but apparently that relationship was going to be just as confusing as everything else had become. Right now, I couldn’t tell whether it was a gift or a curse, but she wasn’t like any other woman I’d ever met.
I chuffed to myself. Of course, she wasn’t like any other woman I’d ever met.
These days, supernatural types were varied and plenty, yet nobody seemed to know much, if anything, about her particular gene pool. I mean, before I’d happened to find myself faced with a big, angry panther, I’d had no clue that certain humans could change into that form. Jenna had said that they called themselves naguals or nekojin, but their title made no difference to me. The main point was that they could turn into big cats and therefore you didn’t want to encourage them to unleash their claws.
Jenna was spectacular when she changed. Her fur was glossy and black, making her the most ridiculously photogenic jaguar you could hope to spot. And then, when she changed back, well… She was even more stunning than before.
Soft, lightly tanned skin with dark curly hair long enough to tickle her collarbone. And her eyes were chocolate brown. Usually angry, too.
In fact, they’d been mostly angry lately.
Maybe that was just around me, though. Either way, her mood swings were beginning to get to me. I rolled my shoulders again, trying to eke out the tension that had carried through from my human form. She was older than me, but only a little, and much better at this whole half animal thing. If she’d been in the mood to stand my company then maybe I would have gone running with her, instead, but it seemed like too much hassle when all I seemed to do lately was irritate her.
I’d tried to put it down to the case that Violet was meant to be working, the one that Jenna had asked her to take on. It was pro bono stuff, no money in it, but my sister had promised and I thought she’d been keeping to her word, only, there were no leads and nobody was willing to come forward to a non-nekojin to talk about the disappearances, which kind of hampers any investigation. I understood that as much as I understood Jenna’s frustration, too. If there’d been anything I could have done…
Except Violet was adamant that I wasn’t to touch the case.
It was like being a kid again. She wouldn’t let me help out the same way that Jenna just wouldn’t let me in. It was the most damn frustrating situation. And with Jenna it was somehow ten times worse.
Since I’d become half werewolf, I’d developed the urge to be part of a pack and I’d thought, somewhat stupidly, that Jenna might want to be a part of that, too. Sure, she wasn’t wolf, but she was animal and I felt a strange bond to her that made me want to connect in a familial, pack-like way.
And that was another thing.
She wouldn’t let me close. At first I’d attributed it to the death of her brother and the fact that she was bringing her niece, Olivia, up on her own. I’d told myself that was it, that was the reason why she kept snapping at me. I was too close and she didn’t like it. Like a mother hen with her chick.
So, I’d backed off and given her space. But it turned out that she didn’t want space. And then she did. And then she didn’t again. It was like being a human yoyo.
And hell if I had a clue what was going on.
I closed my eyes again, lifting my snout and taking another deep breath. There was no need to think about it. Puzzling out a ridiculously complex, feline female was not going to help me relax any time soon. Besides, the whole thought process behind coming to the werewolf exercise centre was to indulge my lycan side and let my lupine needs take over.
And that excluded thoughts of my sister, the missing nekojins case, and, especially, thoughts of Jenna.
I lifted my muzzle to the soft breeze again, drinking in the aromas. There were wolf scents all around, which was not exactly unexpected in the grounds of the exercise centre.
It was an odd place. They had all the usual bits and pieces in the main facility like running and rowing machines, but that wasn’t why werewolves came. It was for this. I sniffed the air. It was for the acres of land that allowed werewolves to run and hunt in their animal forms with no backlash from the public or the police.
It was kind of freeing to be able to go somewhere and give in to my wolf side. In fact, it was remarkably calming to do so. If I hadn’t been directed to the place by a bitten werewolf guidance counsellor, I’d probably be tearing up the walls and chewing through the cushions back at home. And that would hardly put me back on Violet’s good side.
My nostrils twitched.
Eyes narrowed, I stalked through the long grasses, lifting my head to catch the scent better. It was coming from somewhere near the small collection of trees. My soft paw pads made no noise on the uneven ground.
Leaving the peace of the open grasses, I headed for the vegetation. It appeared to be the tail end of a wood. Somewhere beneath the boughs, dead wood crackled in the undergrowth. My head lowered, sniffing hastily to catch the delicious aroma of deer once more. Instinct told me that the scent was fresh, but not varied enough for it to be more than one deer.
Treading carefully, my nose tracked the trail deeper into the trees, forsaking the tumble of my thoughts for a bit of hunting. The deer had to be lost. Why else would any creature in its right mind have ventured so far into grounds that were so obviously crisscrossed with wolf trails?
A regal shadow much further ahead caught my attention. My muzzle lifted, carefully taking a whiff. I could kill it and eat its juicy red flesh. Its head turned, trying to gauge which way to go, no doubt, but it didn’t see me. The soft shades of my coat were perfect for this shadowy path.
I padded closer, trying to keep myself down wind of the deer. Wolf instincts were taking over. Hunting was a new thing. Nobody had taught me how to take down prey, but things like this rolled over me as if I’d been born to track and kill. I wondered if all new werewolves found the instinct so naturally or if you had to be born with it.
It was a difficult subject to broach, even moreso when I had no werewolf friends to speak of. The closest thing I had were the guidance counsellors the hospital had sent me to and Violet’s friend, Graeme. But my new abilities were a touchy subject where Graeme was concerned. After all, it was his rogue werewolf offspring that had bitten me.
And I was lucky. Most people who were bitten didn’t survive the change.
The deer was close now, still lost and disorientated. My keen eyes followed the slender stalks of its legs as it picked its way through rocky undergrowth. The delicate curve of its neck gently scrolled from side to side, surveying the woodland ahead. If I leapt, I could tear that soft, fleshy throat wide open and taste the blood that spilled.
My tongue flicked over my snout. I could kill the gentle beast, but the meat would be wasted. There was no need to end a life and scoff when I had plenty of food at home.
Instead, I stepped out into the quiet creature’s path. Its nostrils flared, eyes bulging, but it remained still. Cautiously, I crept closer. The deer took a pace backwards, the scent of fear pulsing from its flanks. I moved forwards again, doing my best to appear submissive and unthreatening.
It was only a young deer. It had been hard to tell in the grey of the woods before, but now I knew for certain. It freaked out a little as I brushed against it, heading for its hind quarters. It tried to round on me, but I nudged its back leg, gently trying to push it onwards.
There was no need to kill it that evening. And if it stayed in the compound it would only end up savaged by one of the various packs. Torn to shreds didn’t seem like a great way to go. So I gave it another nudge and it took the hint, stumbling a couple of steps anxiously ahead.
We carried on like that for a little way, heading towards the perimeter of the compound in the very centre of the woods. When we got close enough, the funny little deer pricked its ears, snorted, and took off, bouncing over the low fence with a sense of panic.
The tip of my tail twitched. I hadn’t done anything to spook it. Why had it suddenly felt the need to bolt?
And then I caught it. That scent.
Heady and exotic, it slipped in from a slight twist in the breeze, warning me mere milliseconds before a huge black shadow launched from one of the trees, straight for me. The rogue scent had alerted me quickly enough to let me dart from my previous position, leaving the big cat sprawled on the ground where I’d been standing barely a moment before.
What the hell? I growled, irritation sparking and prickling my fur. My tail bushed, angrily batting at the ground.
The huge cat rolled onto her back, big brown eyes blinking mischievously with chocolatey fondness. Paws swiped in the air like she was trying to grasp for me. I watched her tail wriggle around as she rolled in the mud. Trying to frown at her with wolf features was pretty hard so I settled for a snort of irritation.
My tail hair slimmed, less freaked out, but I still batted the thing low to the ground, pissed at her for attempting to jump me. Turning away, I began to pad back into the woods, but she flipped over, shouldering into me like a kitten. Without thinking, I snarled, snapping my teeth in her face and stopping her dead in her tracks.
What’s got into you?
I could almost hear her, that look on her silky, noir face audible.
I snorted again. As if she didn’t know.
The black panther paused, letting me get a few steps ahead before she caught up to me. How difficult was it for her to understand that I was irritated with her? Besides, she shouldn’t be anywhere near the compound let alone in it. Her scent swirled around me, thick and intoxicating, but I wasn’t the only werewolf that enjoyed her heady aroma. It was what had led me to meet her the first time. And it was the same thing that led other angrier werewolves to find her before.
She shoved into me, forcing me to stop, and rolled herself out on the floor before me, waving her paws in a playful fashion. So now she wanted to spend time with me?
I hesitated, looking down at those chocolate eyes. She was still rolling about in the dirt, messing up her fur and trying to convince me to play with her. And yeah, I wanted to, but I’d rather have her in human form so we could hash out what the hell was going on with all the push pull she was doing in this relationship.
Hell, could I even call this a relationship any more?
Jenna, I warned with a growl.
She put on the big puppy eyes and I lowered my muzzle in defeat. She nipped my chin, gently, before our noses met, snuffling softly.
It was a bitch to stay mad at her.
Soon we were rolling around on the floor together, toying and playing until a scent on the breeze stilled me. I froze, still pinning her to the ground as she tugged at my ear. And then she must have noticed the smell, too, because she flipped us both, springing to her paws and disappearing up the trunk of a large tree. My muzzle lifted into the air, but it was too late.
A pack of werewolves burst into the small clearing, excitedly sniffing out Jenna’s trail. One of them growled at me, snarling as he tracked her scent all over my fur. Eyes narrowed on mine. I bared my teeth back. The other wolves returned, nudging me and shoving me from a side. The oldest one pushed the younger, growling beast and its rumbling ceased. I wondered if this was the alpha of their pack, taking careful note of his colours and the missing toe in his front right paw.
My own paws remained rooted to the spot, not intimidated but not stupid enough to try to fight these guys on my own. Besides, they were clearly enticed there by Jenna’s smell and had no real problem with me, anyway. Which just meant that I had to play the part of dumb mutt, hoping they’d go away.
The oldest wolf came close to my face. He sniffed gingerly, watching my eyes for reaction as his three companions circled us. After a moment, he nudged me and then pointed his muzzle to the floor, trying to ask me where the huge panther had gone. I cocked my head on one side, pretending I couldn’t understand.
The younger, angry wolf chuffed and chaffed, unconvinced. I shouldered him away, growling. Jenna would be watching from the tree. I had to let her know that I could handle myself so she didn’t try to get involved.
Disregarding them, I headed towards the edge of the clearing, as if I’d become bored, but the young werewolf leapt in front of me, snarling. My glare met his. Hackles rising, my ears dropped and my teeth bared. A low warning growl issued from my throat, causing the older wolf to pay attention. He pushed the cub out of the way, signalling him to let me go free.
Cautiously, I moved passed them, heading back into the thicker trees. Rustling followed me, paws padding on all sides as the wolf pack trailed alongside, not bothering to remain hidden. They clearly weren’t willing to let me go yet. Maybe they thought I’d lead them to Jenna, but they were out of luck. I caught the occasional glimpse of her leaping silently from bough to bough overhead, but there was no way I was going to acknowledge her with these brutes either side.
Instead, I kept my head low and tracked my way back to the centre’s building, hoping I could shake them. The plan didn’t work. They just followed me to the line of hatches. Each hatch had a number corresponding to the cubicle we’d selected, a little bit like at a swimming pool. Except, each cubicle’s hatch only opened to submit a wolf wearing a collar that responded to the cubicle we’d used to get changed in.
My hatch unlocked as I approached, reminiscent of a giant cat flap. The other wolves waited outside as I disappeared through the thick sheaf of dark grey plastic. Once back inside the building, I could still see the shadows of them waiting to see if I would leave for the compound again. Perhaps they thought I would return to meet with the panther they were so keen to track.
Well, bad luck for them.
I wasn’t about to lead them to Jenna, no matter how annoyed I was with her. Besides, I’d seen what crazy werewolves could do to someone they didn’t like and I didn’t fancy they were tracking her just for fun. In fact, with nekojin mysteriously disappearing, it made me wonder if these wolves had anything to do with the case Jenna had asked my sister to investigate. The thought made me itch with anticipation.
My nose twitched and I padded a circle of my cubicle before coming to a decision. Violet had told me not to get involved in the case. And I wouldn’t. But this wasn’t the case. At least, not unless I found something out. And if I did, then, well… It wasn’t as if I’d set out to go against her…
I hope you enjoyed the excerpt, guys! And don’t forget that you can get Preying On Time, the first in the Indigo Skies series, for free from everywhere except Amazon up until the 24th April!
It’s an amazing dark fantasy book that starts off the whole series. Calling The Wolf will be the fourth instalment, but keep your eyes peeled as more stories are planned for this supernatural future world.
If you want to receive updates for every new book I release then why not sign up to my release mailing list? You’ll never miss a new book again!
So preorder your copy now!
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