Presence: Wolf Moon (Presence Series 2)
Written by Charity Becker
Published by Blysster Press http://blysster.com/store/store/presence-wolf-moon-print/
From the back:
A rogue werewolf threatens the safety of Port Orchard, Washington, but all Mina Jewel can think about is the sudden flood of unrelated missing children cases. Between her private eye gig, a rash of unexplained and debilitating health issues, and her duties to Presence–an underground society of psychic investigators and practitioners–Mina barely has time to deal with her screwed-up private life. Time is running out for the little ones, and Mina knows it. Frustrated with her lack of leads, Mina becomes careless, endangering Presence and thrusting herself into a war between Lycans she doesn’t trust and the people who fear, hate, and hunt them. Now Mina must decide who to side with, knowing if she chooses wrong, the missing children won’t be the only ones to lose.
Read on for a free sneak peek of the first chapter!
The werewolf wasn’t even trying to blend in. Sure, he might appear normal at first glance with his pressed gray business suit and expensive shoes. Even the curly black pony-tail could pass. But the long canine teeth and those black claws in his human hands ruined his polished appearance. Most Lycans that showed off their condition in public tended to be trouble, or so I’d been told. I only knew one werewolf personally, and he was nothing like this guy.
“What can I do for you today, Mr. Latrator?” I asked, giving my best professional smile. Judge not, and all that fluff.
“I’m looking for a Lycan.” His speech was clear despite the doggie teeth—which, truthfully, you didn’t even notice unless he smiled. He wasn’t smiling now as he leaned back in the chair, shifting his weight to rest his right arm on my desk and tap his claws on my blotter.
“And what kind of Lycan are we looking for?”
I waited for him to explain, to give me something to work with, something to think about besides the incessant rapping of those shining claws. I’d managed to get my ever-present headache down to a dull throb just before this meeting, but now it was pulsing against my skull in time with the tapping.
After several wordless seconds, I raised an eyebrow. I’d had reluctant clients before, but none quite this closed-off. It annoyed me to have to work so hard before I’d even agreed to take the case.
I pushed my irritation down and took a deep, calming breath before I asked, “Does this wolf have a name?”
“Brendon,” he said, folding his hands in his lap.
Maybe he thought the ambiguity added mystery, or that it would make me want his case more. Maybe he thought all private investigators had some kind of Sherlock Holmes fantasy or something. Then again, maybe he was just an ass.
“This is how it works, Mr. Latrator,” I said, forcing the words out slowly so I wouldn’t yell. “You provide information, I find who you’re looking for. I’ve got a lobby full of clients who made appointments today, so you aren’t doing me any favors by being here. I don’t need your case, your money, or this aggravation. Now, either cooperate or get out.”
He pressed his lips together, squinting his bright green eyes, but he didn’t speak. My shoulders tensed when his gaze skittered down my body, searching. Was he being macho and sizing me up, or was he wondering how many bites it would take to get to my chewy center?
Before I could comment, he straightened his already straight tie and said, “My apologies, Ms. Jewel.”
The tension in my shoulders relaxed a little and I let out a soft, relieved breath. Picking up my pen and looking at my pad of paper, I asked, “So, how old is Brendon and what relation is he to you?”
“Brendon is my son. He’s just turned twenty-eight.”
Glancing up, I said, “I typically do missing children cases, Mr. Latrator.” I had no intentions of bumping a missing kid case to find this pretentious asshole’s adult son, and I was getting ready to say as much when he raised his clawed hand to stop me.
“I’m aware of your specialty,” he said, his voice a shade softer. “However, I thought because of our parallel. . . unusual circumstances, you’d be more willing to help us than anyone else would.”
Word had spread via the small-town grapevine that I had special abilities. Most people didn’t believe it, but those who did believe, liked to talk. Latrator had probably heard the stories and assumed I was friendly to the surreptitious Lycanthrope community. It wasn’t that I was unfriendly toward them, I just wasn’t as familiar with Lycans as I was with other preternatural types. Being second in command of Presence had opened me up to all kinds of strange things, but only one real werewolf, Timothy. Well, until now.
Regardless of how I felt about the Lycan sitting across from me, looking into those worried eyes, part of me felt bad for the guy. His son was missing. It wasn’t any easier for a parent just because the missing child happened to be an adult. It didn’t make the pain of not knowing where they were any less. On top of that, Mr. Latrator couldn’t just walk into any police station or private investigator’s office asking for help. He and I both knew nobody would be willing to help the monsters. Nobody but me.
Knowing the crappy hand life had dealt him, I guess I could understand why Mr. Latrator might be acting like such an asshole. Under the same circumstances I’d probably be defensive and cautious, too. Maybe even a little bitchy.
I sighed, the remaining tension in my body easing away. I’d do my best for Latrator, not because I liked him, but because I felt bad for him.
“Does your son have any enemies?” I asked.
“None that I’m aware of.”
“Is he most often a man or a wolf?”
“I hardly see how that’s relevant.”
The tension snapped back across my shoulders, and I pursed my lips. It took all I had not to scream in frustration. Maybe he was just an ass. Pushing the anger down again, I folded my hands on the desk and fixed him with a steady gaze. “I think you’ve wasted enough of my time.”
His reply was a sneer and a wash of power biting its way up my arms. The energy spilled over me in a static-charged wave that made the tiny hairs on my arms tingle. Mr. Latrator grinned, obviously satisfied with my wide-eyed reaction.
A touch of dismay flashed on his face when I settled cold, unwavering eyes on the werewolf. The surprise didn’t last long though. His arrogant grin came back almost at once, dismissing my silent warning as if I posed no threat.
Fine. We could do it the hard way.
I concentrated on a point just under the knot in his tie. When I flicked my index finger toward his throat, an invisible line of energy flew off my fingertip. The tie flipped out of his jacket and flapped up over his face. All at once, he wiped his left hand down his face to clear the tie, stood, and reached across the desk with his other hand, extending those razor claws toward my throat.
In the space of a heartbeat, I’d pushed my energy outward in a gush and let it spill over the Lycan. As my power enveloped him I could feel a connection to his body, a thin thread of energy from my hand to each of his muscles and joints. He was my puppet on unseen strings, and with just a thought I held him, half-standing, still reaching for me.
I smiled and knew it wasn’t friendly. His wide eyes flicked from my face to my hand and then back again, gleaming emerald in the reflected light from my desk lamp.
It wasn’t easy to hold him. Telekinesis takes a lot of concentration, especially on a living creature or for an extended period. I’d just started learning how to use it properly so my skills were limited. The headache pounding in my skull wasn’t helping matters either. My concentration was a trembling, delicate thing, losing strength by the second. I just hoped the werewolf didn’t know that.
“Are you going to behave yourself now, Mr. Latrator?” I said in the calmest voice I could manage.
“Yes,” he replied.
“And are we all done with the games?”
He ground his teeth together, his jaw working furiously under his smooth, tanned skin, and I could feel his movement as a tug at my fingers like a fish at the end of my line. “Quite through,” he finally said.
I relaxed, imagining the puppet strings cut and drifting away. Mr. Latrator dropped heavily to his seat with an exhaled oof. I picked up my pen and looked down at my pad of paper again as if nothing had happened, though my heart was racing and sweat had blossomed on my face and arms.
“Is he most often a man or a wolf?” I repeated, hoping Latrator couldn’t sense the exhausted tremor in my hands.
He cleared his throat and straightened his now rumpled tie. “Usually? A wolf. Though recently he’s been spending more time as a man.”
Resting his right ankle on top of his left knee, he settled back into his seat. Apparently, we were playing nice again. We looked so businesslike, so professional. If anyone came in just now they’d never have known we’d just had a metaphysical pissing match.
Rather than comment on his demeanor, I kept it professional and asked, “So, what’s with Brendon′s sudden change of. . . identity?”
“I fear Brendon has fallen in with a human hate group.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Lycans who hate humans, or humans who hate Lycans?”
His face went tight. “The latter, I’m afraid.”
“Humans who hate Lycans?″ I shook my head. ″That doesn’t seem like a very werewolfy thing to do. Why would Brendon want to harm your pack?”
“He’s next in line for pack leader.”
I’d never had to deal with furry politics before, and quite frankly, didn’t want to. Timothy was a loner, none of the rules applied to him, and I was glad of that. I’d heard that Lycanthrope precepts could be nasty. A cross between extremist humans and wild animals—if there was a difference at all. Again, it was all third-hand stuff I’d heard around the Presence meeting table down at HQ, but they’d been a reliable source so far. After all, it was their job to document and control preternatural beings and occurrences. I had no reason not to believe Presence about Lycans.
“He doesn’t want to be pack leader,” Latrator said. “He wants to be normal.”
He said the last word with such disdain I gave a short laugh.
He stiffened in his seat and said, “Is something funny?”
I shrugged and flashed an apologetic smile. “I’m not sure there’s anyone normal in this town.” A thought came to me then. A thought that wiped the smile off my face and sent a shiver through my body. “We haven’t had a full werewolf pack in this part of Washington for at least twenty years. Why did you settle your pack here?”
He licked his lips and fidgeted with the bottom edge of his suit jacket. “We needed a new home, and this area’s ideal for our way of life.”
Something told me we’d be hearing about missing or mutilated hikers in the coming weeks. But I didn’t say that out loud. “Tell you what,” I said instead, “I’ll take your case, but if anything looks odd, I’m bringing it to the police.”
He nodded his understanding, then said softly, ″Please, just find my son.”
For a split second his expression changed, his eyes softened. Then, before I could react, he quickly morphed back to the aloof Latrator I’d first met: All business and self-importance.
Mr. Latrator stood, offering his hand like any gentleman would. I reached across the desk and took his hand, and power crackled between us. It was a shock to feel all that raw energy crawling up my arm, especially when I was still recovering from our first encounter. But I looked Latrator in the eye and gave a firm shake. Werewolves, like natural wolves, respect solid eye contact. Looking away is a sign of submission, a sign that you acknowledge the other’s dominance over you.
Nobody dominated me. Not anymore.
Latrator narrowed his eyes, the skin at the corner of his mouth twitching as if he fought not to smile. “They say you’re just a human,” he said.
“And?” That one word came out as hostile as I’d meant it to.
“I think they’re mistaken.” With a quick squeeze of my hand, he turned and left my office.
Just before my door closed I caught a glimpse of the overflowing waiting room, and my headache came back with a vengeance.