So after re-checking the sneak-peek of Moon-Burn that I put at the end of Book 2, I realized just how much of Chapter One I had released. In the spirit of not ripping you guys off with regurgitated material, I have decided to release Chapter Two as well. Not in 3 installments. Not even in 2, in fact, but all at once. So here it is, all new, never-before-read material from Book 3, Moon-Burn. Enjoy!
When we approached the sixth den, I saw that it was a super old, abandoned elementary school building. The brick was that unattractive tan color that most old buildings seem to have, and the windows were small and square, as opposed to the long narrow ones used at Glenbrook High.
The road that used to be was now cracked open and tufts of grass grew obstinately out all over the place. The path disappeared behind a cluster of trees, and I wondered if it still led to a main road somewhere.
There was a sign by the curb, but the lettering had faded away and the whole thing was rusted over. A sad little playground was off to the left, also rusted over, and one lone school bus was parked around the corner.
We stepped up on the sidewalk and I reached for one of the doors, but Elliot caught my hand.
“Don’t touch me,” I said, jerking my hand away from his.
“Listen to me, Greggor’s pack is the biggest in the state. With over twenty adult members, he can afford to be more reckless than the rest of us.”
“Really? That’s funny, cuz you were pretty reckless yourself when you went all Dr. Frankenstein and started shouting ‘she’s alive—she’s alive!’ and got us into this mess,” I deadpanned. “If you hadn’t announced my existence, nothing would’ve happened to the pack in the first place.”
He furrowed his brow and frowned at me, but didn’t respond to my observation. “Just be ready for anything, alright?”
“Can I open the door now?”
He half-frowned at me and threw a hand toward the door in surrender.
To my surprise, the door was locked. So far, all the dens had been completely open, and it made sense— if there was an intruder, a pack of were-wolves wouldn’t have much to worry about. And it’s not like they had anything worth stealing anyway.
“That’s weird,” I said aloud, mostly to myself. This was the main entrance to the building, so the lock was on the outside, but we had no way to pick it. “So, what do we do? Go around?”
Elliot shook his head. “Gimme the key to the handcuffs.”
“What good is that gonna do?”
“Just give it to me,” he said, raising his voice.
I dug in my pocket and handed it to him, watching as he put it in the lock and tried to pick it. “How in the heck is that gonna work?”
“It could be a trap,” he said, jiggling the knob as he methodically turned the misfit key.
“They could’ve purposefully locked all the doors but one to trap us. I’m not taking any chances at this point. If we go in this way, we know exactly where our out is.”
“But you’re not gonna be able to get that door open with the handcuff key—”
A sharp clicking cut me off. He had done it; the door was open. “You were saying?” He raised his eyebrows smugly and held the door open.
The inside of the building was so creepy. As per usual when it came to were-wolf dens, there were no lights except for what got in through the windows from outside, so the place was mostly dark. Luckily, my were-wolf eyes were up to the task once they adjusted, but that didn’t make it less intimidating.
There was scattered dirt and dried mud caked all over the floor. They had obviously tracked it in at some point, but God forbid men should ever clean up after themselves!
A thick musty smell hung in the air that told me this particular hall didn’t get much traffic. If it weren’t for that scent of oldness, I could almost imagine it as a current school, still in working order. There were bulletin boards on the walls, with news clippings, announcements, and ‘exemplary’ student papers and drawings still pinned there, and plaques next to the classroom doors that denoted what teacher each belonged to. I wondered if any of those teachers were still around somewhere. Maybe some were still here, in Beaumont, teaching at real schools.
I stepped up to one of the bulletin boards and searched a newspaper clipping for a date. When I found it, I gasped—1964! Holy crap! No wonder it smelled like a nursing home in here!
“Hey,” Elliot hissed at me, “stay on task—you’re the only one with the gun, here.”
I scowled at him and took my place back in front of him. The main hall drove straight through the middle of the building, all the way across, but we soon came to a crossroads, where two smaller halls branched off to the left and right. They seemed to curve around and connect back to the main hall, down the way.
As I viewed our surroundings, Elliot’s hand suddenly clapped down on my shoulder and I whirled around, cocking the gun instinctively.
“Back off! I shot you twice—you think I won’t do it a third time?!” I spat at him in a harsh whisper.
In one fast motion, he took one hand and pushed the gun aside so it pointed past him, and cupped the other hand over my mouth, shoving me against the wall.
I sucked in a sharp breath through his fingers and tried to pull the gun back to aim it at him, but he was too strong. The very thing I had feared from the start was happening—he was overpowering me and there was nothing I could do about it! I tried to kick him in the crotch, but he used one of his legs to block mine, then pinned my thighs with his knee, locking the position by hooking his foot around my leg. I tried to open my mouth to bite his hand, but he held me too tightly.
What could I do? I had been so stupid. Why did I ever think it was a good idea to travel across the state with the guy who had tried to rape me mere weeks before??
“Cut it out!” he suddenly whispered through gritted teeth. “I’m not trying to hurt you—didn’t you hear that?”
For a second, I didn’t respond, so stunned that he was talking at all, instead of throwing me down and trying to take my clothes off. I burbled, “Hear what?” through his hand.
“A door opened and closed down there somewhere,” he said, nodding his head toward the main drag of the hallway. “I’m gonna let you go, but you have to shut up and let me take lead. And keep that thing pointed away from me—got it?”
I complied with a quick nod, still shaken up by the episode and getting even more worked up at the thought of actually having to fight off a pack of were-wolves. All I could hope was that seeing the gun would be enough to scare them into submission. (Yeah, right.)
He unwrapped his hand from around my mouth and dropped his leg. Putting a finger in front of his lips, he gave me a grave look before turning and starting down the hall.
I didn’t like that grave look. And despite the fact that he hadn’t tried to hurt me just then, I couldn’t shake my newfound unease at being alone with him. If he could overpower me once, he could do it again. And next time, things could turn out differently.
I shook off my nerves, feeling there was nothing I could do but focus on the mission. The sooner we got the pack back, the sooner I’d be safe from Elliot. So I followed him, keeping my eyes and ears extra alert for more of the sounds he was talking about. There was definitely a weight to the silence and I knew it meant there were people here. While it made me nervous, I was also getting excited—it had to mean our pack was here!
When we got to the middle of the hall, Elliot stopped short and put his hand up to tell me to stop. He sniffed the air and nodded his head toward a room to the right that had windows on either side of the double doors, where faint light was shining through.
I did the same, sniffing the air, and found it was now filled with the scent of living flesh—sweaty men with oily hair and dirty clothes. Ew. Why do guys have to be this gross?
Elliot beckoned for me to follow as he backed against the wall and crept closer to the room. When we got to the end of the wall, where it met the first window, he peaked in and quickly threw his head back against the wall.
Nodding, he whispered, “Yeah. They’re in there.”
“‘They’ who—our guys or Greggor’s?”
“Not ours, his.”
“How many?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I saw at least two.”
“What are they doing?”
“I don’t know—let’s just go.”
“Wait! How do you know they didn’t see you? Maybe they’re in there getting ready to attack us when we walk through the door!”
He shook his head once in annoyance. “It doesn’t matter.”
“How can it not matter??”
“Because we have to go in there either way,” he shot back. “Buck up and come on.” I took a deep breath and followed him as he stepped squarely in front of the doors without hesitation and quietly reached for one of the handles. “Stay behind me,” he threw over his shoulder. “And if it looks like it’s too much for us to manage—run.” He crooked his head back at me. “Understand?”
“Yeah, yeah, run if it gets out of hand—I got it—let’s just get this over with.”
He used both hands to push the handle down quietly, and pulled open the door. Once he looked inside, he shifted awkwardly and gestured with his head for me to take a look.
Inside was something I didn’t expect to see. On the right side of the room, staring at a small TV against the wall, was a group of six men sitting around in straight-back chairs. It looked so pathetic—like they were prison inmates and this was their one hour of television for the day. I remembered Greyson saying there was a TV somewhere upstairs at our den; he’d made a point of saying it wasn’t fancy. I wondered if my pack looked this sad when they watched a movie?
Elliot swung the door closed and motioned for me to back down the hall a few steps. “Alright, this is it, what we’ve been waiting for—are you ready?”
“But what are we gonna do, just walk in and be like, ‘hey’?” I asked.
“Why not? We have the element of surprise, which gives us the upper hand.”
“I can’t believe they’re just sitting around watching a movie—I thought they’d all be ready and waiting on us.”
“Me, too. I’m not so sure this is a good thing,” he said.
“Great. What do you think that means?”
“It means we need to do this now and find out what it means.”
“Okay, Donnie Darko.”
“That’s confusing,” I said.
He brushed me off and opened the door.
I took a deep breath and raised the revolver up in front of me before taking a step, keeping my arms from shaking by locking my elbows.
“Hey,” one of the men said once I had taken a few steps into the room, “what’s that smell?”
“It’s pissed off she-wolf,” I responded, surprised at the level of strength and control my voice had.
At that, all six heads turned our way as they jumped out of their seats and stood to face us.
One of them stuttered, “Y-you’re…”
“We’ve established who she is,” Elliot interrupted. “Let’s establish something else—where the hell is our pack?”
“Yeah—where are they?!” I shouted. Elliot shot me a look that said, ‘can it and let me handle this’ but I ignored him and yelled, “If someone doesn’t take me to them right now, I’m gonna give you all a new piece of internal jewelry!”
“Great Gaia,” Elliot said under his breath, like he thought it was stupid.
“So, it’s true—you’re real,” one of them said.
“Maybe you didn’t understand what I meant by ‘internal jewelry’!” I yelled. It annoyed me that none of them seemed threatened by the fact that I was pointing a gun at them. “I can’t figure out if the most common trait in were-wolves is cockiness or stupidity, but either way, you guys are gonna be in trouble if you don’t—”
“Oh—your pack,” one of them interjected, like he had just registered what I’d said. “They’re not here.”
“Sure they’re not,” I said sarcastically.
“Why would they be here?” one of them asked.
“Yeah,” said another one, “they should all be at your den showing you off in front of the rest of our pack.”
“They should be at our den, you’re right,” I said. “And they were until you assholes decided to stage a coup!”
“Shut the hell up,” Elliot said behind gritted teeth. “If they don’t know, you shouldn’t tell them.”
“A coup, huh?” a burly, dark-haired guy asked. “I reckon our alpha started that. Too bad the six of us weren’t there to be part of it.” He grinned as he stepped out of the group and came forward, still not at all affected by my gun.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Elliot said, taking a step so he was ahead of me a little.
“You mean more than the ones I’ve already gotten?” he asked with a cocky grin as he looked me up and down.
“Enough of this!” I shouted. “You! Take me to my pack!”
The guy never dropped his grin, but took another step forward and said, “They’re not here.”
“Not another step,” Elliot warned.
“Who are you? Her bodyguard?” one of the other guys asked.
“I know you’re lying!” I said, ignoring the others and staring at the obvious alpha of the group. “I know they’re here!”
“They’re really not, Angel-face,” he said.
“Don’t call me Angel-face—don’t call me anything—just tell me where my pack is!”
“I don’t know where they are,” he said with the same cocksure smirk, “but you’re more than welcome to use my phone and call your den. Just come reach your hand in my pocket and get it.”
“That’s it!” Elliot said as he threw a right hook and landed it on the guy’s jaw.
“Don’t move!” I yelled at the rest of the men, who were stiffening and preparing to gang up on Elliot. “I know how to use this and I WILL shoot you if I have to!”
The guy Elliot hit spat blood on the floor and put his hand around his jaw, like he was checking to make sure it wasn’t dislocated. He went from relaxed and cocky to completely pissed in two seconds flat.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” he yelled at Elliot.
“I’m the guy who’s about to fuck up your world if you don’t watch it.”
“Wow,” I said. “And you thought ‘internal jewelry’ was stupid? How cliché was that?”
“Shut up and let me deal with this,” he said, but when he turned his attention briefly to me, the dark-haired guy took his chance and launched at him.
Just before he got to Elliot, I aimed at one of his legs and shot. He immediately yelped and fell backward, and the other guys reacted by stiffening again, but they didn’t move. They just kept darting their eyes back and forth between their guy lying on the floor and my gun. They obviously hadn’t expected me to really shoot.
“Now you know not to underestimate me just because I’m a girl,” I said. “I told you I know how to use this. Anyone else want some?” I asked, waving the gun at them while the one I’d shot grunted and struggled to reach his wound and try to extract the bullet. It was too far down his leg, though, so he couldn’t reach it without moving the leg, which, of course, he was reluctant to do.
“Been a long time since you’ve had silver in your body, hasn’t it?” Elliot asked calmly, standing over the guy. “Actually, you look pretty young—maybe you’ve never known the silver burn.” The guy said nothing, only kept grunting and trying to reach his shin as Elliot continued, “Well, little pup, there’s a first time for everything.”
At that, the guy growled and tried to lash out at Elliot, who took a single, calm step out of his reach.
“What good is that doing, Elliot, teasing him like that?” I asked. “That’s not getting us any closer to finding the pack.”
“Someone help me, damn it!” the wounded guy shouted.
The other five started to move, but Elliot quickly said, “Hold it.”
“We told you, your pack’s not here!” one yelled urgently, clearly wanting to help his injured friend.
“And I told you I don’t believe you!” I yelled back, keeping the gun steady.
Elliot stepped halfway in front of me and spoke quietly. “I think they’re telling the truth.”
“I don’t think the pack’s here.”
“Smell the air,” he interrupted. “You know their scents aren’t here.”
“Well, then where are they?” I asked, starting to whimper with exasperation.
“We can talk about that when we get outta here,” he said. “Right now, you need to shoot them all.”
“The only way we’re gonna get out of here is if they can’t chase us.”
“You want me to kill all these guys?” I asked, horrified, before remembering who I was talking to.
“I didn’t say ‘kill’. You just have to hit them in the legs so they can’t run after us.”
“But I can’t just shoot people arbitrarily—it’s one thing if they’re trying to attack us, but—”
“Look at it this way,” he said, “they will attack us if you don’t shoot them.”
“I know, but—”
“Would you like me to do it?”
I jerked the gun to my chest and took a step back from him. “Yeah right I’m gonna give you the gun!”
“Then buck up and do it,” he said, stepping aside so I was facing them head-on again.
I looked at the guy still struggling with his maimed leg, and then at the others, watching him with uncertainty. I imagined them all lying around on the ground in pain and thought, ‘what if this was my pack?’ But instead of pushing me further away from the notion of shooting them, the thought hardened me. My pack was in trouble because of all these other packs. (Actually, they were ultimately in trouble because of the jerk standing next to me.) I was here to get them back. I told Avery I was determined to get them back—no matter what. This was a ‘no matter what’ moment, and if I wanted to do what I set out to do, I’d have to keep myself out of harm’s way.
Which meant, as much as I hated to admit it, that Elliot was right.
Hope you enjoyed it! Moon-Burn is still slated to be released this month, so--barring any unforeseen cover art disasters--you will get to find out what happens next very soon!
PS. I should have news on the cover soon, so stay tuned!
PPS. Rhyming not intended.