EL_WolvesI mentioned a couple weeks ago, here and there, that I’d be putting out a new romantic fantasy, called Wolves, soon.  And that I’d be doing it a little differently—I’ll be releasing the book a chapter a month through my newsletter.  And that’s a thing that’s about to start!  I’m sending out the first installment in October.  \o/

Here’s how this is going to work.  I’m going to post the first chapter here, at the end of this blog post.  If you think it’s something you’d like to read, you can sign up for my newsletter.  Each newsletter will have a downloadable new chapter (in all the formats) as well as a way to download the past chapters.  So if you stumble across this blog post and would like to read the book, you can still sign up at any time, as long as the book’s still going out, and get caught up.

The book has fourteen chapters.  I’m planning on a chapter a month, but there are a couple shorter ones I might combine.  Each newsletter, in addition to the new chapters, will hopefully have a little bit of news in it as well, and the usual assortment of recs, updates, freebies, fun stuff, etc, but that’s all the mail you’ll be getting from me, and your email address won’t be used for anything else.  The newsletter is a double opt in, which means a confirmation email is sent, so check your junk mail.

 

Stuff about Wolves:

  • It’s a werewolf book! But there are no alpha/beta/omega dynamics, no fated mates, and almost no shifting. I love that stuff! It’s great!  But I wanted to write a werewolf book that went in a slightly different direction.
  • Trigger/content warnings include a ton of talk about family, abandonment (nothing related to sexuality) and extremely strained family dynamics/situations. There’s also some talk of mental illness.  If anyone has ANY questions about content, please ask me.  I’d much rather chat about it and have readers be comfortable.
  • There’s on-page sex. So maybe don’t read at work.  Unless, you know, your boss is cool with that.
  • The book *will* eventually be available for sale, in digital and paperback formats, so if reading as a serial isn’t your thing, no worries! But this way, you’ll get to start reading early.

 

Here’s the blurb for the book:

Every month on the full moon, Ian desperately fights his wolf nature. Even after escaping to the anonymity of the city, where he can be free from his family’s demands, he can’t stop running from the past.

Brian is Ian’s opposite, running towards the past instead of from it, searching for the family that abandoned him. Ian, a finder of lost things, can help, but he doesn’t take magical cases, and he’s not in the business of locating people. Instead of asking and chancing rejection, Brian engineers an ‘accidental’ meeting. The chemistry between the two is immediate, though, and Brian realizes his careful plan is about to go wildly off course. 

But Ian discovers the ruse, and he’s furious. He can’t trust Brian—it’ll only lead to heartbreak. However, part of Ian still doesn’t want to let Brian down, so he agrees to help. As they work side by side and uncover truths about their pasts, they grow closer. Ian begins to wonder if trusting Brian might be worth the risk, and Brian starts to realize that, instead of looking back at the past, they should be seeking a future together.

The first chapter is below!  If you like it, please sign up for the newsletter so you can get the rest.  And if anyone has any questions (about content or how this is working or anything at all) please let me know!

 

Chapter One

 

I stepped out into the late afternoon sunshine, and the only thing on my mind was how I was supposed to get home from this shithole side of town. I had a diamond watch in my pocket that could have paid for most of the warehouses on this block, but no keys and no ride. The “friend” who’d dropped me off was long gone, and it was a long way home.

I made my way down the alley I’d come out on and crossed to a busier street. Cars were passing me by, but I didn’t bother to stick my thumb out. I was wearing my long coat, and I had my good boots on. I probably looked like the kind of guy who’d end up axe murdering you in the woods if you dared to offer him a ride. I knew I looked scary. I was tall, and my face was too sharp, and I probably seemed like I was trying to be secretive when, really, I was trying to make myself blend into the background. Usually, I could live with whatever people thought of me, but right now, it was giving me quite the disadvantage.

And then it started to rain, and I wondered if maybe I was living in some dramatic noir film. Notorious werewolf fence goes for walk in the warehouse district and is drenched in the rains of ennui. Contemplates life and whether he should have worn a hoodie instead.

I wrapped my arms around myself and hunched over more, trying to keep my head down. It didn’t matter. I was soaked in a minute. My hair dripped in my face, just long enough that it sent the rainwater pouring right into my eyes. I brushed it back, and as I glanced up, I saw a car pull to a stop in front of me. The passenger side window rolled down.

I didn’t really think it had stopped for me, but I leaned down when I got up close to it. There was a man in the driver’s seat—he was small and wiry, and he was giving me the biggest smile I’d seen in days.

“Hey,” he said, easily, like we knew each other. Maybe we did. I was terrible at faces. “Do you need a ride? You’re getting soaked. You’ll catch a cold.”

I frowned. “Are you serious?”

His smile faded. “Yes? I’m not a psycho or anything. I just don’t like seeing someone get drenched.”

“But…” I pointed at myself. Trying to point out my hulking shape and the fact that this wasn’t really an area where anyone in their right mind went walking. Or offered anyone a ride. “Aren’t you worried I’m the psycho?”

He laughed, and it sounded musical and sweet, and I found myself wanting to move closer. “No. I know you.” He held up his hand when he saw the confusion on my face. “Not personally. You’re the Fence, right? Or… do they call you The Wolf? I forget.” He waved his hand. “You found a signed book for my dad. Umm, I think it was Lord of the Rings. He liked you.” He gestured at the door again. “You don’t have to take me up on it. But I can bring you back to town if you want.”

I thought it over, but not for long. Yeah, he was small, and it seemed like, if he tried anything, I could hold him off with my little finger. You never knew who was packing magic or could turn into a lion or some shit, though. But I remembered the book he was talking about. I didn’t actually get many requests to find books. Usually, it was jewelry or antiques. I’d liked his dad, too. I’d only met him the twice, in a coffee shop both times, but he’d been one of those people you immediately felt comfortable with. He was a giant nerd, and smart, and we’d spent a long time talking about fantasy books. I vaguely remembered his son coming to pick him up the second time, but I hadn’t stuck around long enough to get more than a glimpse of blond hair.

But this guy was familiar. And I was soaked and uncomfortable. And his smile was still really inviting.

I pulled on the door handle and stuffed myself into his tiny car, curling my legs up and to the side so my knees didn’t hit the dash. I was half worried I’d get stuck like that, crammed between the seat and the cracked plastic of the glove box door. He reached around, careful not to touch me, and pressed a button, so the seat slid back and I had a bit more room. Then he took his hand back, taking all the warmth of himself away at the same time, and put the car into drive.

It was quiet, and kind of awkward, awkward enough that I wanted to break the silence. He’d been kind enough to pick me up. The least I could do was try to make conversation. Even if I had never been what anyone would exactly call a conversationalist. More like the quiet, odd kid in the back of the room, but whatever, I could make an effort. “It’s the Fence,” I said, answering his earlier question. “At least to my face. But I’m not actually a fence. I make connections for people. Find things. And my name is really Ian.”

He flashed me a quick grin before he turned back to the road in front of us. The rain was sheeting down on the windshield, but he drove with a steady confidence that was weirdly appealing. “I’m Brian.”

I nodded. “How’s your dad?”

We chatted about his dad and books for the rest of the drive. I didn’t think I’d ever used the word chatted in a positive way before, but that was what it was, and he was as easy to talk to as his dad had been. It was so comfortable that I was almost startled when he asked me where I wanted to be dropped off.

“I’m just going home, so I can take you wherever you want to go.”

This time, I should have thought about it, but again, I didn’t. Caution is always a good idea—anywhere. Here, it seemed like people were more secretive. More reserved. Apparently I’d forgotten that. I gave him the address for my apartment, and when we got there, I told him to park in the space that would have been mine if I’d still had a car.

“Here we are,” he said. I expected him to leave the car running, wait for me to get out, and drive off. Then again, I wasn’t surprised when he shut it off and glanced at me, his hands resting lightly on the wheel. We’d been… Flirting wasn’t exactly the right word, but we’d definitely been friendly on the ride over, and maybe it would have felt strange for him to simply drop me off. As if we’d started something but hadn’t finished it.

He settled back against his seat and gave me a tiny, sly grin. “I’m not gunning for an invite inside.” He smoothed his hand over the steering wheel. “I really didn’t want you walking home in that. I’d have done it for anyone.”

I shrugged, my coat rubbing against the soft fabric of the car seat. “I know. And it was nice.”

He dropped his hands into his lap. “How nice?” He was eyeing me. Not in a way that was quite a leer. More… in a considerate way, a way that made me feel warm and comfortable and seen. He really was lovely. All slender and bright and sparkly. Polished, in his appearance and the way he talked, but not so much so that he wasn’t fun, or exciting. I was pretty sure there was a good edge to him, lurking under that smile. Something tempting and maybe slightly dangerous.

“Very.” My voice had gone a bit husky. “Very nice.”

“Then invite me in for a coffee?” he asked, and from anyone else, it would have sounded sleazy, but here, it didn’t. It sounded easy and gentle and friendly.

I laughed anyway, softly. “Please come up for a cup of coffee. It’s the least I can do.” I made a short mock bow, cramped in the confines of the car, and his smile got wider. It was a pretty smile. Too open to be dishonest. Nothing coy in it at all.

He nodded and pulled the key out of the ignition.

I led him around the back of my building, to where the outside staircase started. There was a front door to the building, and an indoor stairwell, but I almost never used it. Half the reason I’d picked this apartment was because it had this back entrance. The private one, my friend Kaye called it. She always laughed when she said it, like it was a big joke, but sometimes I thought of it that way. Brian followed me gamely enough, our feet clattering on the rickety fire escape steps. The doorway was tiny, and after I unlocked it, I had to duck to get through it, but he didn’t. He must have been almost a foot shorter than me.

He peered around my room with an expression on his face as if he’d never seen anywhere like it, and I had to admit I was pleased with myself. The apartment was small, but I’d packed a lot into it. And a lot of what I had was… interesting. Interesting tended to be what you acquired when you hung out with the sorts of people I hung out with, and when you’d lived in this town as long as I had.

I mean, it wasn’t as though magic wasn’t everywhere, but here, in this city, it was thicker. The locals said it came in off the ocean, but I thought it was because we were all so damn invested in it. Most places, magic was like air. A part of everyday. But here, it was our commerce, our living, our daily bread. You had to believe in it, you had to swim in it, or you had to admit this city wasn’t actually anything special. That it was the same as everywhere else.

Except for me. I went a more mundane way. That always confused people.

Brian was still standing in the doorway, glancing around at the figurines I’d lined up on the shelf that separated the living room and the tiny kitchen, at the books scattered over every flat surface, at the silk scarves hanging from the ceiling, which met the screens that hid my bed away. I grinned to myself and stepped into the kitchen to start making coffee. “Make yourself at home.”

He shook himself, maybe remembering where he was. I thought he’d follow me, or head for the couch, but he walked around the edges of the living room. He didn’t touch anything, but he stared at everything, leaning forward so he could see details. In turn, I watched him. His hair was just long enough that it curled over his forehead. He wore skinny jeans like he was going clubbing, but his shirt was nice. He had a tiny bit of eyeliner on, delicately drawn around his eyes. It made them flash bright blue when he turned towards me.

“You are a wolf, though, aren’t you?” he asked. He’d stopped at one of the paintings I had of Kaye’s, hanging over a bookshelf. It was of cats, lying in the sun.

I busied myself pouring the coffee into cups and pretended I hadn’t heard his question.

He quirked his lips up when I came around and handed a cup to him, and I knew I wasn’t fooling him at all. But he didn’t ask again. He took the cup and sat on the couch. It was worn, and whenever I sat on it, it seemed as though the cushions were threatening to never let me go, but he seemed perfectly comfortable. I slumped next to him. I’d shed my coat and shoes and damp socks in the kitchen. My clothes were still wetter than I’d have liked, and I wanted to grab the blanket off the back of the couch and wrap it around me. Instead, I made do with cradling the hot cup in my hands.

“This is probably where we make nice conversation about our jobs.” He grinned at me sideways. “Or you try to make me drink my coffee really fast so you can get rid of me.”

I let myself sink back into the cushions. “I’m not sure I want to get rid of you.” I didn’t, I found. It’d been a while since I’d had company, or any company I didn’t mind. But I didn’t mind him.

He raised his eyebrows at me. “Don’t say stuff like that. I’ll think you’re flirting.”

I laughed, surprised. “Nobody flirts with me. I’m the big bad wolf.” It was an opening for him to ask his question again, and I didn’t know exactly why I was giving it to him. I still didn’t want to answer. Maybe I was thinking of it as a test of sorts. If it was, he passed it. He didn’t ask again, didn’t make any hint, this time, that he’d heard me say the word. Instead, he set his cup carefully down on the coffee table. Then he twisted around on the couch so he was facing me.

He reached out slowly, giving me time to stop him, but I didn’t. His hands were warm from the cup when he touched my face, his fingertips hot against my jaw. He leaned forward, and I closed my eyes. His kiss was soft and short, but it wasn’t hesitant at all. It was bold.

He pulled away too soon, and I blinked my eyes open. The cup started to slip in my hand, and I had to tighten my grip around it. I set it on the table next to his.

He was watching me. He didn’t look nervous. He looked like he was asking a question of me, without any words.

“Do you have anywhere to be this afternoon?” I asked.

His smile was slow and deep, and it made something hot spark to life inside me. “That sounds like you’re aiming to kidnap me.”

I smiled in return. “I might be.”

He scooted closer to me, until our knees bumped. “I knew it was a good idea to pick you up.”

It was an innuendo, but it made me draw back the tiniest bit. He caught it, though. He put his hand on my knee. I could feel the warmth of it through my jeans.

“I’m joking. You don’t owe me anything, you know. I can say thanks for the coffee and be on my way if that’s what you want, and I won’t be offended.” His fingers slid an inch or two up my leg while he said it. But I believed him anyway.

I shook my head and caught his hand in mine. “No. That’s not what I want.”

 

***

 

It had been a long time since I’d had anyone in my bed. In this town, a lot of people knew me or knew of me, and that didn’t usually make for appealing bed partners. Brian fell into the latter category, but he didn’t seem starstruck or anything so ridiculous. He didn’t seem intimidated by me at all, actually. He was aggressive, pinning me to the mattress like he was the one who was bigger and stronger. He pushed my arms over my head and held my wrists down while he kissed me. When he slid down my body, I left them there, as if he’d told me not to move them. And then he had his way with me.

After, he flopped beside me, all limp and pleasantly worn out, and I rolled over on the dark blue sheets to face him. His hair was in his eyes, tumbling over his forehead, darker now with sweat and all tangled from where I’d run my fingers through it, where I’d tugged at it. I brushed it back gently.

He smiled at me, sleepy and warm. “Is this the part where you try to get me to leave?”

I shook my head. I could still feel his touch all over me. We’d been fast, and rough, but he’d been… thorough in a way that was thoughtful instead of necessary. That had made me think he really wanted me. “No.” I found myself reluctant to move, to leave the circle of his arm. It was only that it had been so long. I hadn’t slept with anyone in a while, and I hadn’t had sex that good in… Well. Maybe it was best if I didn’t think about that.

I sat up, then leaned back over him and kissed the angle of his jaw. He grinned at me.

“You like me.” He sounded so pleased with himself, and his smile was catlike, turned up at the corners and smug in a way that should have been ridiculous or annoying but only made me smile back at him.

“I do,” I said, and it was more true than I’d thought. Then I pulled away again, and ran my hands through my hair. “I have to go to work, though.”

He nodded agreeably, and I was glad he wasn’t one of those people who was going to whine or complain or try to pretend there was more to this than there was. He stretched, his whole body flexing, and I found myself completely distracted by him all over again. I liked the way he looked in my bed, pale against the dark colors. Against my dark colors.

He caught me staring, and that smirk came back full force. “Don’t stare at me like that, or you’ll be late.”

I laughed and pushed myself to the edge of the bed. My jeans were still damp, but they were my only pair. If I’d been thinking, I’d have at least hung them up. But I… hadn’t been. I glanced back over my shoulder at Brian. He was shrugging his shirt on. He rolled his shoulders to settle the fabric, and then reached for his jeans. He was so easy there, sitting on the edge of my bed. I wondered, uncharitably, how many other beds he’d sat on, to be that comfortable after. Or maybe, I told myself, he was simply that easy in his own skin. Maybe it wasn’t any of my business.

I shimmied into my jeans, wincing when the rough damp fabric dragged against my skin.

There was a clock sitting on my bedside table. It had all its gears exposed, and in the middle of the whole thing, a tiny hourglass filled with blue sand that flipped over and over. The hourglass didn’t seem to be attached to anything, and I figured it probably worked with some perpetual magic, infused into the clock’s motion. When I got it, I hadn’t bothered to ask. I’d been told it was designed to keep magic at bay. Or contain it a little. I had no idea if that was true. I thought it was probably bullshit. Magic had a mind of its own, and the guy who’d given it to me had been short on cash and desperate. And I’d been easily swayed by his charms.

But I liked the clock, and I’d taken it with me every time I moved apartments. It kept the most perfect time. And looking at it now, I saw it was later than I’d realized. I’d lost all track of time while I was with Brian. I touched my finger to the clock face for good luck—I’d deny it backwards and forwards, but I was superstitious as fuck—then stood up and grabbed my shirt.

When I turned around, Brian was standing there, watching me. “Superstitious?” He sounded more curious than scornful.

I shrugged, embarrassed, even though I’d just had the same damn thought. “Isn’t everyone?”

He nodded. “Little bit.” He pushed his hair back from his face. “Uh, listen. This was… good.”

I liked that he didn’t say “nice.” There wasn’t anything wrong with the word. But when people used it after sex, I always figured they meant “bland.” Boring. Please don’t call. That sort of thing, and even if I hadn’t wanted to call, it wasn’t awesome for the ego. Brian didn’t seem like he meant bland, though, or anything like it. He was still all tousled, his skin flushed. I wanted to topple him back into the rumpled sheets and pillows of the bed, and he didn’t seem like he’d object.

“We could maybe get together again? For this,” he added, making it clear what he meant. “I’m not… But this was good. I’d like to do it again, if you wanted to.” He took a tiny step closer as he said it. The same way he’d run his hand up my leg earlier. As if he didn’t realize he was doing it.

I hadn’t seen him flustered since he’d picked me up. It was endearing. I nodded and tugged on the hem of my shirt. “Yeah. I’d like that.”

We exchanged numbers. I always dreaded that awkward do we or don’t we hug or kiss moment, but Brian navigated it by kissing my cheek and heading for the back door without another glance. I waited a few minutes, to give him a chance to go, and then I left too.

 

<<<>>>