If you don't know Jen, she is awesome both as a person as a writer. She's wicked smart, crazy cute, super nice and just someone that I look up to immensely. She's also phenomenally talented (her The Squad books are still some of my favorites) and one of the many things I just thought was fascinating about Raised by Wolves, the prequel to Trial by Fire, is how dead on Jen gets the pack dynamics of her werewolf world. Which of course shouldn't be surprising since she studies pack dynamics, but still -- it's was really really cool and fantastic!
This week I'm part of a chapter trail to celebrate Trial by Fire's release on Tuesday, June 14th! To read the first two chapters go here: Chapter One at Ally Carter's Blog & Chapter Two at Sarah Rees Brennan's Blog and for chapter four check out Rachel Vincent's blog tomorrow! So, without further ado here's Chapter Three of Trial by Fire!
After—but only partially because of—the bombshell I’d dropped on the boys, Thanksgiving dinner proved to be a tense state of affairs. Casey had to leave the table twice: once when Mitch’s hand brushed Ali’s as he reached for the salt, and once when Katie started bawling and Mitch was the one to reach out and distract the temperamental little miss from the indignity of being stuck in a high chair. As for Devon and Chase, they were acting even more high-strung than Ali’s ex.
Apparently, my distraction had worked a little too well, leaving the two of them closing rank around me, like the Thanksgiving steak—a vaunted Were tradition—might leap off the table at any moment and attempt an assassination.
It was just a dream, guys.
I sent the words to the two of them through the bond, thankful that I’d mastered this part of being an alpha and didn’t have to worry about other members of our pack overhearing.
I’m fine. I’m going to be fine, and if either of you move your chairs even a centimeter closer to me, you’re going to be picking stuffing out of your hair while trying to pry my foot out of your you-know-what.
The humorless expression on my face sold that threat. I wasn’t some weak little human girl anymore. For that matter, I’d never been some weak little human girl. I was a survivor, I was their alpha, and I could take care of myself.
“Ouch!” The cry escaped my mouth before I could stop it, and on either side of me, Chase and Devon leapt to their feet.
“Problem?” Ali asked mildly, amusement dancing in the corners of her eyes. Given the whole Casey thing, I didn’t think she had call to be in such a good mood, but what did I know?
“No problem,” I said darkly, rubbing my shin. “Somebody just accidentally kicked me under the table.” I narrowed my eyes at Lake, and she helped herself to another T-bone and smothered it in steak sauce.
“Wasn’t an accident,” she said cheerfully.
“Lake.” Mitch didn’t say more than his daughter’s name, and she rolled her eyes.
“It’s not like I shot her.”
There was a retort on the tip of my tongue, but I was pretty sure Lake had kicked me because she’d picked up on my saying things she couldn’t hear, and I really didn’t want to open up that topic of conversation to the table at large. The boys’ overprotective act was conspicuous enough as it was.
Note to self: in the future, I needed to be more careful about how I changed the subject.
I’ll tell you later, Lake, I said silently. Promise.
Lake met my eyes and nodded, all thoughts of further under-the-table violence (hopefully) forgotten.
I reached out to dish up seconds, and the door to the restaurant opened. Casey crossed the room and slid back into his seat, composure regained. Even though I’d gotten used to his presence, something shifted inside my body. I took a long drink of water and gave my pack-sense a chance to acclimate again, only this time, it didn’t.
Through the heavy scent of homemade gravy and pies baking in the oven, I couldn’t even pick Casey’s scent out of the crowd’s, but what I was feeling now had nothing to do with the five senses and everything to do with my psychic bond to the Pack. The niggling sensation persisted, and the longer I waited for it to pass, the larger it got.
That was when I realized that I wasn’t sensing Casey. It was something else. Someone else.
Across the table, Mitch glanced toward the door, and then he looked at me.
“Get the kids to the back,” he said.
I turned immediately to Maddy, and with the quiet efficiency that had always made her a leader among the Rabid’s pint-sized victims, she ushered the others away from the table, even Lily, who let loose a comically high-pitched growl at the thought of being separated from her food.
“Now, Lily.” I added my voice to Maddy’s, but my thoughts were on Mitch, who’d already started reaching for the gun he and Keely kept behind the counter.
Ali didn’t ask what was happening. She didn’t have to. Within seconds, she had Katie in one arm and Alex in the other, and she met Casey’s eyes.
“Are you staying or coming?” she asked him calmly.
I could see the temptation of going with Ali warring with Casey’s lupine desire to prove himself—to Ali and to the rest of her pack.
“This is Cedar Ridge business,” I told Casey quietly. “We’ve got it covered.”
The dagger eyes Casey shot me in that moment made me realize that he hadn’t forgiven me for being the straw that broke his marriage’s back.
He wouldn’t ever forgive me.
Right now, I had bigger issues than Casey.
“If I asked you to come with us, would you come?” It took me a second to figure out that Ali was addressing that question to me, not Casey.
I didn’t answer.
Ali started again. “If I told you to come, would you— You know what? Never mind, but if there’s a hair out of place on your head when I get back, be forewarned, I will kill you, alpha or not.”
With those words, Ali followed Maddy and the rest of the younger kids back into the kitchen, out of sight and, hopefully, out of harm’s way. After a long moment, and another glare in my direction, Casey retreated, leaving only five of us to meet the coming threat.
Devon, Lake, Mitch, Chase, and me.
This time, the feeling was so strong that it brought me onto the balls of my feet. There was a foreign wolf on our territory. My territory. He’d come without permission, on an evening when the bar was closed. Teeth gnashed in the recesses of my brain, painting the walls of my mind red with blood as I realized the potential for this to end badly.
The werewolf Senate hadn’t been happy with the idea of a human alpha, and there wasn’t a day that went by that I didn’t think about the fact that I had something most male Weres wanted very, very badly.
Maddy. Lake. Lily, Katie, Sloane, Ava, Sophie . . .
Their names blended together in my mind, and the adrenaline pumping through my veins turned angry and cool. Most werewolves were male. Natural-born females, like Katie and Lake, survived to birth only because they’d been half of a set