Genre: Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Hailey Edwards
eBook release date: October 29, 2016
Print release date: October 29, 2016
Lorimar Pack, Book 1
Lorimar Pack, Book 1
War is a constant threat on Dell Preston’s horizon. As beta of the Lorimar pack, her job is to maintain the peace on the new border between Faerie and Earth at all costs. Even if that means playing nice with her ex, Isaac, the fae who savaged her wolf’s soul, and Enzo Garza, the flirty witch who ought to be focused on building up their magical defenses instead of tearing down the walls around Dell’s heart.
Butler, Tennessee is a pinprick on the map with a diverse population of supernaturals. It’s also chockful of humans who are unaware of the magical rift bruising the sky or the otherworldly insurgents raining down into their zip code.
A local fae’s disappearance catches Dell’s attention, but she dismisses it as an isolated event. Until it happens again. Unable to ignore the strange happenings in her town, she begins an investigation that uncovers so much more than a simple rash of kidnappings.
Now Dell finds herself at the sharp end of a pointed ultimatum. Find the missing and return them to their families or get ready for prime time. Botch this job, and forget coming soon. The war will become tomorrow’s featured attraction instead.
Titles available in this series include:
Promise the Moon Excerpt
Saliva pooled in my mouth as a whiff of pungent herbs and musky sweat hit my nose. I drew air over my tongue, tasting rosemary and brine. I love when dinner comes pre-seasoned. Licking my chops, I crept through the underbrush on my belly. Burs knotted in my fur. Those would be fun to comb out later. Not. Limbs raked down my pelt, their gnarly bark clutching at me, asking me to reconsider. Not gonna happen.
Betas don’t stand on the sidelines. We rush headlong into the fray with our teeth bared and battle cries rattling our throats. So what if I only had three hours of sleep in my tank? That’s what coffee was for, right? Besides, our pack was down to three females. Someone had to show the boys how it was done.
A growl started in my gut and rumbled through my chest. My wolf didn’t like when human thoughts disrupted our hunting time, so I sank into her consciousness a fraction more and gave her free rein to take down our prey.
A squat blob of grayish, jiggling flesh toddled from tree to tree, glee written on its pudgy face as it pissed on our markers, claiming our territory as its own. Dukas resembled globs of animated cellulite, their skin gray and iridescent like spandex. Looking at this one made me thankful for my high metabolism, otherwise I might have regretted the cupcakes I ate for breakfast. Almost. Okay, no. That’s a lie. I never regret cupcakes.
The vibration in my chest rose higher, and the trespasser flicked an unconcerned glance over his shoulder. His citrine eyes were reflective. His teeth, stained with plaque and rounded like small hills, bared in a welcoming grin.
“What have we here?” His green tongue swiped across his swollen lips. “You’re not just a wolf, are you? No. Not just a wolf. I smell magic on your fur.”
I padded forward to get free of the tangling brambles and entered the glade where he stood.
“What? Don’t like me watering the plants? You can’t very well lift your leg, can you? Don’t have the right bits for hitting a bull’s-eye.” His snicker sent his fat rolls bouncing. “These woods are mine now. Best you scamper along before I decide I’m hungry enough not to care if I shite fur for a week.”
Lowering my head, I flattened my ears and peeled my lips away from my teeth. The growl roiling in my throat spilled out of my mouth, and the duka shook off his nub and yanked his pants up past his hips.
“There’s a whole world out there.” He waved an arm to indicate the dense forest at my back. “No need for you to die over this patch of dirt.”
The laugh I intended came out as a wolfish chuff. He was right. There was a whole world out there. One that belonged to us. This fae reeked of cut grass and bruised roses, damp loam and petrichor. He stank of Faerie. That meant he was trespassing on our world. These days we prosecute trespassers to the fullest extent of the law.
A quiver twitched in my jaw, and drool slid through my teeth where it stringed from my chin.
“Suit yourself.” Waving me forward with a thick arm sent dense ripples throughout his entire body. “Come on then. I don’t have all night.”
Poor guy. He didn’t get it. Wargs are pack animals. We don’t hunt alone. Attempting to take down bulky, dangerous prey solo was a good way to get yourself killed. Some nights I skirted the line, sure, but those risks were mine to take for the safety of the pack. I didn’t have a death wish. So while I might be out in front, providing the flash, the bang was closing in on the duka from all sides.
“Let the new recruits handle this one, Dell,” Zed coaxed, his words vibrating through my head. “They need to get their feet wet, and dukas put up a good fight.”
“The newbies can watch and learn this round.” The hum of agreement from our pack mates tickled the back of my mind. “This is my Friday.” I was out of rotation for the next two days. “You can pop their cherries over the weekend.”
The acrid tang of Zed’s concern spiced the air.
I angled my nose upwind and pretended I hadn’t noticed my best friend attempting to step between me and what he viewed as my self-destructive tendencies.
“Are you two done bumping your gums yet?” The pack bond hummed with Haden’s frustration. “I have a date in an hour, and I’ll need to shower after this.”
The intrusion of human voices into my too-human thoughts provoked my wolf into a snarl. Or maybe it was the mention of dating that lit her fuse in a grim reminder that one day the pressure behind our ribs, the dull ache of each heartbeat its own countdown, would go boom. Tick-tock, baby.
Only the strongest wargs outlived their mates. Mine wasn’t dead. He just didn’t want more than the taste he’d had of me. Too bad I was still ravenous for his touch, the hunger so deep it gnawed on my bones.
“You know the drill,” I projected to the pack, skipping over the rookies, forcing my head back into the game. “Don’t kill him unless he breaches the city limits. Herd him toward the rift if you can.”
Few refugees could go back the way they came. They fell to Earth through a jagged gash in the sky’s underbelly that had been spackled over with glamour to prevent human eyes from beholding the wound bleeding fae into our world. They splash landed in Watauga Lake, and some of them drowned. Most of those who didn’t lacked the means or the magic to zip back to their homeland. Even more spat that they would rather die than return. What that said about Faerie, I didn’t know. Except it hardened my resolve that the fae wouldn’t get a toehold in this world. Well, not one bigger than they already had.
The human in me receded, and with her, the constant ache behind my breastbone. The wolf mourned our loss, too, but she was better at concealing weakness than me. Though Zed’s protective behavior had me questioning the quality of her and my acting skills.
Glittering eyes flickered in my periphery. Go time. Lips curved in a canine grin, I charged the duka. I leapt and twisted midjump, kicking him in the chest with my rear paws. The duka’s thick arms cinched over empty air. A second later Haden pounced him from behind and sank his teeth into the fae’s nape, shaking his head until black ichor soaked the duka’s shirt. The fae stood his ground, reaching behind him to grip Haden’s ruff. He yanked until Haden yelped and released him, and then he flung the wolf aside.
The fae made as if to finish the job, and I cut in line for another turn. I went for his jugular while another pack member helped Haden crawl to safety. I snapped my teeth inches from the duka’s double chins, jaws aching to latch around his throat, but he fisted my scruff and sent me flying. Two other wargs danced on the edge of my vision. It was their turn, and I was hogging the fun. Too bad. I shook out my fur and lunged again. This time I caught flab between my teeth and worked my jaw until licorice-flavored blood filled my mouth. The duka slapped me down so hard I saw stars, planets and a couple of moons.
Moore and Abram darted past me, tag teaming the duka while the ringing in my ears faded. The fae hurled them like Frisbees, too, but they were ready for it and landed mostly on their paws. Zed and Nathalie made their run next, one in front and one in back. Zed was plucked off the fae’s chest, but he was wiry and stronger than he looked. He wriggled and squirmed and made it difficult for the duka to clamp down on him long enough to toss him. Nathalie, on the other hand, was sawing her way through the fae’s spine with the single-minded determination of a woman unafraid to floss marrow out of her teeth before bed. The duka shrieked and punted Zed in a frantic spasm before ripping Nathalie off his back, bringing her around to yell bloody murder in her face, and then hurled her as far as his quivering muscles allowed.
“Is that…it?” His arms flung wide in an open challenge no one rushed to accept. Purple sweat dotted his brow as he tossed his head back and laughed to the moon. “Is that…all you’ve got?”
Neck exposed, he offered me prime real estate at a fraction of the cost of our earlier encounters. Once more I sprang at him, clamping my jaws around his throat and flinging my head until hunks of meat came away in my mouth. His cackling turned to screams, and he sank his sweaty hands into my fur. Yanking on me ripped him open, but it also threatened to dislocate my jaw.
“Let…go,” he gurgled wetly.
I let the rumble in my chest answer for me while I made his esophagus my chew toy.
Impact sent the duka staggering forward. The tips of Moore’s ears peeked over the fae’s shoulders. Backup had arrived. Moore and I might have our issues, but he was as solid as they came where it counted. Hissing profanities, the duka made a blind grab behind his head and ripped Moore off before he got a good grip. The fae, shaking with adrenaline, jabbed a thick finger in the side of my mouth, between my jaws, and pressed back until I gagged and released him.
“Bitch,” he snarled, clamping his hand over my muzzle. “You’ll die for that.”
He hammered one globular fist down on the crown of my head, and my skull rang. It was still echoing when he dumped me on the ground at his feet, clutched my tail and swung me into a nearby tree. Crack. My spine absorbed the impact, and my hind legs tingled with oncoming numbness.
A whipcord-thin wolf, ribs exposed beneath his mangy pelt, darted between the duka and me. My distraction had bought the others time to catch their breath. Howls ringing through the crisp night air, the wolves piled on the fae while Zed stood sentry over me.
Cheek mashed into a clump of molding leaves, I sucked in harsh breaths peppered with rot while my body did its thing. Ten years later, the prickling in my limbs receded, and I pushed onto all fours. I wobbled, but I didn’t fall down. I’d take it. I managed one tipsy step toward the dog pile.
“Where do you think you’re going?” Zed asked in the bored tone he reserved for morons.
My ears flattened against my skull. “The pack needs me.”
“You tangle with that fae again, and you’ll get yourself killed.” He met my gaze for the briefest of seconds before glancing aside. “I’m not assisting in your suicide.”
“That’s not—” I spluttered. “I’m not—”
Rewinding the night’s events, I replayed my actions from his perspective, and the world tilted under my paws.
No, no, no. I was not this weak or this stupid. Great googly moogly. What had I almost done?
I was not my momma. I wasn’t. Except what had tonight been if not a stellar impersonation of Blanche Preston? Packs still whispered about her in hushed tones, and courtesy of me being her only child, they gossiped about my antics like I was the second coming.
“Prove it.” Avoiding eye contact, Zed watched the fight winding down. “Go home. Heal. Sleep for more than four hours strung together.”
Sleep extended an open invitation for dreams, and all I had was the one that played on repeat.
Cold metal siding dented under my back. A warm body smelling of soldering irons and circuit boards spread my legs, wrapped them around his hips under the light of the moon. The RV rocked from the force of his thrusts. My name ripped from his lips. Stupid girl. I mistook it for a promise.
No thanks. I preferred the honesty of waking up alone to dreaming there was someone beside me.
“You saved me from myself once,” Zed intoned with quiet ferocity. “Let me return the favor.”
How could I not? He and I were broken the same way, our hearts split down the same fault lines, our jagged edges meshing. Our friendship went bone-deep, and I was the last person who ought to put those shadows in his eyes. Zed had lost the woman who meant the world to him. What kind of crap friend was I to make him wonder if one day he might lose me too?
“Don’t make any promises you can’t keep.”
For Zed to stage an intervention in the middle of a hunt meant he knew. And if he knew, then the others must suspect. Crap on a cracker, it sucked having a cautionary tale as a mother. All the eyes watching me, waiting for me to trip up, and here I was putting on a free show. Humiliation accomplished what pride failed to achieve. I tucked my tail and left Zed to oversee the duka’s death throes.
Home didn’t feel sweet these days, so I didn’t return to the RV park where the pack lived. Instead I followed a creek up the mountain and limped deeper into the forest until I spotted my refuge. Every beta ought to have one when the stress of leading a pack got too overwhelming. Then again, most packs didn’t have absentee alphas depending on their second-in-command to hold down the fort for weeks at a time.
The small cave had once belonged to a bear. Black fur filled the crevices, and dried scat mounded in the back corner, but the wolf didn’t mind since the scents were old. I had stumbled across the hidey-hole while in search of a stray troll and claimed it as my own. I would have to crawl on my hands and knees to clear the low entrance if I was human, but the wolf managed just fine. The space was maybe ten feet deep and perhaps five feet tall at the farthest point. Not spacious, but plenty big enough for one. The best part was it stayed bone dry. Despite the afternoon showers that arrived like clockwork this time of year, my den was immune to Mother Nature’s tears thanks to the cavity facing a downward slope.
Zings of agony blasted up my spine until each footstep caused fresh pain to radiate through my abused limbs. Tonight had been close. Too close. And for what?
I growled at the mound of red-and-black flannel crumpled in the centermost space. On days when I felt super pathetic, I left my soft bed in my comfy RV and came up here to sleep curled on top of that damn shirt, just so the burnt-metal scent of its previous owner enfolded me one last time. These days the fabric smelled more wolf than man, and the part of me willing to crawl back to him on my belly after being kicked wanted to howl at the loss.
God I was pathetic. No wonder I kept my shrine to broken dreams a secret. The wolf was screwing with my head. That was all. This wasn’t me. It couldn’t be. She had chosen her mate, and he had left us, and she didn’t know what to do after picking someone who hadn’t picked us back. For starters, we could do some redecorating.
Allowing myself to bury my nose in the fabric one last time, I brought his scent deep into my lungs. Then I pinched the material between my teeth, stepped outside and trotted up the path leading to the bluff. The sheer drop made my stomach twist when I got close to the edge and gazed out at the beautiful Smoky Mountain range. The shirt fluttered in the air currents, stirring more of that burnt-metal smell, as I hung my head over the edge.
And then I let go.
Copyright © 2016 Hailey Edwards
All rights reserved