Werewolves Only releases August 21st, but I'm just so darn excited for you to read this story that I'm giving you a sneak peek at the first chapter right now! Without any further babbling on my part, meet Luke and Macey:
Detective Macey Carpenter ducked under the police tape blocking off an alley on St. Peter Street and smoothed her hair toward the tight bun she wore near the nape of her neck. Storm clouds gathered in the darkening sky, and the summer air hung thick and wet. It was a typical steamy August night in the French Quarter, but the heavy humidity did nothing to quell the chorus of offending odors dancing in the air. She wrinkled her nose.
Slipping her hands into a pair of blue latex gloves, she snapped them at the wrists. The slight sting helped to separate the gruesomeness she’d soon see from the ordinary life she’d return to later. Disconnecting the good from the bad in her mind kept the nightmares at bay.
She paced into the alley, and three men in blue nodded curtly as they passed. “Carpenter,” the blond with a crew cut muttered.
She nodded back and inhaled a deep breath. Angling up her nose to catch the wind, she rifled through the array of scents it presented her. The overpowering aroma of the female victim’s Chanel couldn’t cover the metallic reek of blood. Lucky for the woman, most of the blood seemed to belong to the attacker.
Macey shook her head. Seven sexual assaults in three weeks’ time. In each case, the victims described a different man. Different, yet similar enough that they had to be connected. But how? The assailant had disappeared every time but this one. What the hell was going on in this town?
She stepped into the courtyard and took in the landscape of the crime scene. Six nineteenth-century buildings backed onto a shared park. Willows lined the square, their sorrowful branches looming over the grief-stricken scene. A weathered stone fountain bubbled at the center of the wooded garden, and a thirty-foot magnolia tree towered in the corner, the perfume of its citrusy, white flowers mingling with the stale stench of death, creating a sickly-sweet fragrance that made her stomach turn.
“It’s about time you got here, boss.” Bryce Samuels winked and sauntered toward her.
Macey stopped and put her hands on her hips before shaking her head at her partner. “Traffic. What have we got?” After dropping her bag near a wall, she knelt to examine the alleged rapist’s body. A series of jagged, foot-long gashes stretched from chest to pelvic bone, almost as if it had taken three slashes with the blade to lay the guy open. The pupils were dilated—the blood-red eyes frozen in a look of surprised terror.
“Victim’s over there.” Bryce gestured with his head to a stone bench near the common’s entrance. A green-eyed redhead sat, wrapped in a stiff blanket, giving a statement to a uniform. “Same story as the others. Difference is, this time…there’s evidence.”
Macey followed his gaze to the body that lay before her. “Unless it was a sloth, I don’t see how a dog or a bear could’ve done this with only three nails. Look here.” She traced her gloved hand along each rip in the flesh. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Bryce crossed his arms. “No, it doesn’t. But this is the first time the attacker is actually still at the scene.”
“I know.” Macey pulled off her gloves and dropped them in a trash bag. “Let’s talk to the victim.”
“Shall we?” Bryce motioned with his hands, and Macey took the lead. The uniform had finished his questioning, and the woman sat alone, shivering in the sweltering August heat. Funny how shock could do that to a body.
Her dark green blanket slipped off one slumped shoulder, revealing a black T-shirt with a restaurant name embroidered on the breast. The woman inhaled a shaky breath as Macey approached, but she didn’t lift her gaze from the cobblestone path.
Macey sat on the edge of the bench, the cool stone taming the Louisiana summer. Bryce leaned against the wall behind her.
“Hey there. I’m Detective Macey Carpenter, but you can call me Macey.”
The redhead sniffled and wiped her eyes.
Macey folded her hands in her lap. “What’s your name?”
“It’s Amy. Couldn’t you read that in your report?” Her sarcasm didn’t mask the fear in her voice. She wiped her eyes again and stared straight ahead.
Macey’s chest tightened. She’d dealt with her own personal grief, so she could imagine what this poor woman was going through. Although, Macey had spent more than her fair share of time in denial, and Amy seemed to have skipped that stage and plowed straight into anger. “I could have looked at the report, but I’d rather hear it from you. You know…since you were here and all. I want to help.”
“Doesn’t everyone?” Amy wrapped the blanket tighter around her shoulders, her bobbed hair swishing forward to cover her face as she stared at the ground. “Everyone says they want to help, but when you tell the truth, do they believe you?” She blinked at Macey. “Hell no, they don’t. And why am I not in the hospital? I was raped, for Pete’s sake. Just because some…thing saved me and killed the asshole, I have to be questioned first? What? You think I killed him? I didn’t, but believe me, if I could’ve…I would’ve in a heartbeat. Men like that don’t deserve to live.”
Macey took a deep breath. She understood anger. Resentment. Desperation. Those feelings were nothing new to her, though she’d buried them long ago. And though they rarely reared their ugly heads anymore, she still hadn’t mastered acceptance. “What thing saved you, Amy? Was it an animal?”
Amy scoffed. “Animal. Man. Alien. It doesn’t matter. No one believes me anyway.”
Macey placed her hand on Amy’s. “I believe you. Trust me. I’ve been on the trail of this thing for weeks. You aren’t the first victim to tell me this story, but you are the first to have evidence. Please…I need you to tell me everything.”
Amy took a deep breath and looked her square in the eyes. Holding her gaze, Macey gave her all the trust and reassurance she could without words. Amy exhaled and slumped her shoulders. “Okay. I’ll tell you.”
As Luke Mason stepped through the door of O’Malley’s Pub, a curtain of cool, crisp air blasted his sweat drenched skin. At ninety-eight degrees and one hundred percent humidity, the Vieux Carré felt more like a Dutch oven than a French Quarter. He closed his eyes and let the coolness soothe his aching limbs as he entered the building. The low ceiling and bare brick walls were typical of the nineteenth-century structures in the Quarter. Shaded lights hung from exposed beams, casting a smoky glow over the bar.
He sat on a stool and took a long, refreshing gulp of the Blue Moon beer that sat ready on the counter, waiting for him.
“Rough day at the office?” Chase, the bartender, cocked his head toward the scar across Luke’s bicep. Luke looked at his arm and shrugged. The thin, raised scab had been a gash two hours ago.
“Piece of scaffolding jumped out and got me. No biggie.” He downed the rest of his beer and asked for another.
“Well, if that’s all.” Chase set down the mug he was polishing and poured another Blue Moon. At six foot one, he stood several inches shorter than Luke, but his height didn’t make him any less of a fighter. If Luke trusted anyone to have his back no matter what, it would be him. An intricate series of tattoos sleeved Chase’s arms, and he sported piercings in his ears and eyebrow.
Luke’s only tattoo occupied his right shoulder. A fleur-de-lis designed from a wolf head signified his allegiance to the pack. The star in the center symbolized his bloodline—a direct descendent of the first family. And he wasn’t just a descendent; he was next in line for pack leader. He finished his beer and slid the empty glass to his friend.
“What are you gonna do about James?” Chase placed the glass in the sink.
Luke wiped his hand down his face. “Is he back there?”
Chase nodded. With his hands on the bar, Luke heaved himself from the stool and shuffled toward the back room. He chuckled at the sign on the door—Employees and Werewolves Only—written in marker on a piece of cardboard. It came about as a joke from the customers—that his father, with his long, salt-and-pepper beard and almost-furry arms, looked like a wolf-man. They didn’t know how right they were.
The Crescent City Wolf Pack—at two hundred members strong and growing—was the sixth largest in the nation. Werewolves tended to congregate in towns with immense wooded areas. While New Orleans itself consisted of more city than forest, the vast swamp lands surrounding the area made for prime hunting grounds. And for tough wolves.
Hunting gators wasn’t any easier than it looked on television. While a bite rarely killed a werewolf, it sure hurt like hell. But the thrill of the hunt was worth double the pain. What other choice did they have? Nutria? The beaver-sized swamp rats satisfied the hunger, but they did nothing for the rush. Deer were abundant—and fun to chase—but nothing beat the thrill of hunting gators. They made worthy opponents.
The door shut behind him with a thud. Bright fluorescent lights hummed from above, giving the stone corridor a greenish glow. He turned the corner and descended a short flight of brick steps to the office.
The blinds drawn over the window blocked his view of the scene inside. He tried the knob but found it locked. It must’ve been more serious than he’d thought. He fished in his pocket and pulled out a key to unlock the door. When Luke stepped inside, James sat slouched in a chair, shaking his head. Stephen, third in command and Luke’s cousin, leaned against the oak desk, his arms crossed over his chest.
“What are you going to do about this?” Stephen spat, shifting his weight to his feet and gesturing to James. “The cops are going to be looking for him.”
Luke raised an eyebrow and regarded his cousin. Everyone knew Stephen wanted to be pack leader—and he already had a mate—but his moral compass didn’t quite point in the right direction.
“No one will know who—or what—to look for.” Luke turned to James. “The woman never saw you in human form?”
“No.” James shook his head and dragged his hands down his face. “I don’t know what happened. He should’ve disintegrated like the others. There wasn’t supposed to be blood. Demons don’t bleed.”
Stephen cut him off. “This obviously wasn’t a demon.”
James sighed as Luke took the chair next to him. “It was a demon, Luke. I smelled it. Its eyes were red, and…”
Luke put a palm on his shoulder, and James covered it with his own four-fingered hand. He’d lost his pinkie on a construction site when he worked for Luke. “It’s okay, man. We’ll figure it out.”
“Figure it out?” Stephen paced the floor, his hands balled into fists. “What’s there to figure out? He killed a human, and he needs to be dealt with. You should put him in the pit.”
Luke narrowed his eyes. His cousin would happily throw people into the pack’s specially designed prison for minor infractions without learning all the facts. “I’ll take that into consideration. You can go now.”
Stephen’s jaw tightened with an audible click. “You’d better take care of this.”
“I said you can go.”
Stephen glared at James and stormed out the door, slamming it behind him.
Luke shook his head. “Ignore him. He’s peeved because he has no power in enforcing.”
“He will if he has his way.”
“He won’t.” The good of the pack always came first. He’d learned that by watching his father lead.
James’s face went serious. “I hope not. I’ll go rogue before I’ll serve a tyrant like that. I know he’s your cousin and all…but, shit. He scares me. A lot of us.”
“Nothing to worry about. He won’t become alpha.”
James furrowed his brow. “You’ve only got about a month before your old man retires. You can find a mate by then?”
“If I’m going to become alpha, I don’t have a choice.” He rose to his feet and stepped around his desk, settling into a large leather office chair that squeaked as it absorbed his weight. He’d have to get the WD-40 after it soon. Picking up a pen and a pad of paper, he squared his gaze on James. No more friendliness. It was time to play his role as enforcer.
“The monster attacking that woman smelled like a demon. He gave you every reason to believe he came straight from hell, but he wasn’t a demon. At least, not full demon.”
James twisted in his seat. Sweat beaded on his forehead. Luke’s main job was to deal with rogues and other rule-breakers. Not a job he enjoyed, but he didn’t have a choice. His father was pack leader, which made Luke second in command. He couldn’t stand seeing his friend cower like this, but he had to keep his aura of power strong to keep the pack under control.
“Tell me what happened, James. From the beginning.”
That's Chapter One! If you'd like to read more of Luke and Macey's story, click the buttons below to reserve your copy of Werewolves Only now!