Anyway, the release date for my new novella, Ready to Run, kind of snuck up on me. It drops on August 9 and I don't even have an ad ready yet. In fact, it's not back from the proofreaders and line editors, so I can't send it out for reviews yet.
Ready to Run is the third book in the Werewolves in Love series, and it features (as secondary characters) the folks from Kiss and Kin. Taran and Lark have small parts, Nick and TJ have somewhat bigger parts. And the very bad werewolves of Dominic Kuba's gang? Yep, they're back too.
The heroine is 22-year-old Sara Hedges (named for the lovely woman who won character naming rights in the auction we did for Fatin (@mad4rombooks) - thanks again, Sara!). She hails from the Apocalyptic backwater of Luxor, Texas, about an hour away from Dallas in the armpit of northeast Texas. (What's an Apocalyptic town? You'll have to read to find out!) All Sara's ever wanted to do is get the hell out of Luxor, and she's finally about to do it. In two months she'll be moving to the big city of Marshall, Texas (pop. 28,000), where she'll attend college.
The hero is Bryan Keeton, a wolf in Nick Wargman's Houston pack. Bryan's in Luxor for an important, and top secret, reason. He and Sara have been out a few times. He planned to keep it light and casual so that when the time comes for him to leave, he can slip out of town without a word to her.
Naturally, things do not turn out as either of them expects.
I love the tagline for this book: "Sometimes, a girl's gotta save herself."
Here's the blurb:
Vickie Slater had planned to escape the backwater, bigoted town of Luxor, Texas on the wings of a college degree—not on the back of a Harley, riding for her life.
Just a couple months shy of loading up her Miata, however, betrayal bares its ugly fangs. Her scumbag uncle has sold her to a pack of werewolves willing to pay any price for her special bloodline and it looks like there’s no way out. She never expected the new-in-town, sex-on-a-stick loner to come riding to her rescue. Or to discover he’s a werewolf, too. A good one...with one too many secrets.
Bryan Keeton waited two months deep undercover for the chance to get his hands on one of the gangster Eurowolves wreaking havoc across the South. After calling in the FBI to blow the lid off Luxor, he’d planned to leave town before he did something he might regret—like get involved with the suspect’s niece.
But Vickie makes him stupid. And now they’re on the run from the Feds, who aren’t interested in her innocence, and from the wolves who want her for their own personal squeaky toy…
And here's the gorgeous cover from the amazing Kanaxa:
I like that it has the same "feel" as the cover for Yours, Mine and Howls (also by Kanaxa:):
Over the next few weeks I'm going to be plotting out the rest of the books in the series - I think it's 3 more novellas (Seth, Dec and Wendy (Wendy's in Ready to Run) and 2 full lengths (Michael and Nick). Vickie and I will be discussing story and character arcs, interrelated plot points and what needs to happen to whom. She wants me to put it all in a spreadsheet. Ay yi yi. It's going to be a lot of work.
Check back here on August 10 for a chance to win a free copy of Ready to Run.
I'll close with an excerpt, and then I'm going to go drool at Richard Armitage for a few hours because hey, I just finished some very heavy final edits and I deserve a reward.
[Disclaimer: remember, folks, this manuscript has not been through final edits yet. Subject to change, correction, etc. etc. etc.):
The Café was the finest dining establishment in Luxor, which was only one of many reasons Sara couldn’t wait to leave her hometown of seven hundred and thirty-six.
She knew every person in the place. She’d waited on all of them in the four years she’d been working here. Having dinner at the Café was as interesting as eating in her own living room, except that she couldn’t do it in her pajamas.
“What is it?”
“You’re making a face like something smells bad. Is it me?”
“Oh. Sorry.” She smiled guiltily. “I was just thinking that I wouldn’t miss this place. When I get to Marshall, I won’t be working anywhere that serves chicken fried steak.”
“Chicken fried steak’s one of my favorites.”
“I smell it everywhere, no matter where I am. I swear I smell it on myself when I’m getting out of the shower. I probably smell like it right now.”
“Wait. Hang on.” He got up and came around to her side of the booth, sliding in and pressing her all the way up against the partition.
He buried his face in her neck and took a deep, loud sniff. It tickled and she giggled, both embarrassed at the attention they were attracting and, at the same time, proud of it. The hottest guy to come through Luxor in probably forever wanted her. And he was from Houston, home to shifters and people of fae ancestry, so everyone in Luxor viewed him a little suspiciously despite his fancy motorcycle and topnotch hunting skills. Dating him made her feel like she was saying “screw you” to Luxor—something she’d dreamed about for years but would never have the nerve to do.
He sniffed again. “I don’t smell any chicken fried steak in there. Just some girly perfume. I like it.” He kissed her neck.
“Stop!” she squealed softly, not really meaning it. “Everyone’s staring!”
“All right, all right,” he said with mock sadness. He sat up straight but didn’t return to the other side of the table.
“You two need a room?” Susan asked with a smile. Neither of them had heard her approach the table.
“Nah. We’ll get a room later.” He twisted away as Sara jabbed her elbow into his ribs. “Meantime, Susan, we’d love a pitcher of Shiner. That all right with you?”
When Susan left, Nash turned to face her with his arm across the back of the booth. “So. Marshall. You still on track for that?”
She nodded. “Yep. Sent in my apartment deposit this week. Classes start the first week of January.”
Texas State Technical College, where she’d been taking online courses for three semesters, had approved her for financial aid. She’d be moving right after Christmas.
“It’s gonna be here before you know it.”
“I know. I can’t wait.”
Susan dropped the pitcher and two glasses and promised to come right back to take their order.
Sara took a sip of her beer, suddenly self-conscious and very aware of his face so close to hers.
He ran a finger through the hair at the back of her neck. “You’ll kick ass in Marshall. Matter of fact, I bet after a year it’ll be too small to hold you. You’ll be moving on to Dallas.”
She basked in his praise. No one but her cousin, Wendy, ever praised anything she did. He really seemed interested in her, not just her body. “Well, I don’t know. It might take longer than that to get used to a city that size.” Marshall had a population of twenty-eight thousand. “I do want to transfer to a four-year college. But not in Dallas—that’s too close. I’m going to Houston.” Belatedly fearing it might sound like she was dropping hints about a future with him, she hastily added, “Or, you know, San Antonio, or Austin. Someplace with freeways and buildings taller than four stories.” She looked around the Café. “A place with restaurants you have to dress for.”
Those deep dimples reappeared, but this time his smile was serious. “Wherever you wind up, you’ll do great.”
His words made her feel all warm inside, like she was glowing.
“Okay, what are y’all having tonight?” Susan asked.
“Oh yeah, right, food,” Nash said. “We haven’t even looked at the menu.”
She elbowed him again. “Oh, shut up.” Anyone who’d eaten at the Café more than three times had the menu memorized.
“Okay. Guess I’ll have the chicken fried steak.”
“Fine, but I won’t be kissing you.”
“Oh, I think you will.” He waggled his eyebrows and leered at her.
Susan giggled like—well, like Sara had been giggling just a minute ago. Nash had that effect on women.
“I’ll have the mushroom burger, Sue.”
“Onion rings, right?”
“And another pitcher, please,” added Nash.
They talked about the last couple of charters Nash had taken out on the lake. The guys at JP’s Outdoor Expeditions said he had some sort of mystical rapport with nature. And since he’d arrived in Luxor two months ago, Dallas and Fort Worth businesswomen were showing up, suddenly interested in hunting and fishing.
Their order came up quickly, but Susan didn’t leave after she dropped the plates. Instead, she looked around to see if anyone was listening, then leaned in a little bit, propping her tray against one hip. “Hey. Did y’all hear about those folks out by Wake Village?”
“Huh? No. What folks?” Sara asked. Nash was already digging into his dinner.
“Five of ’em—three men and two women. Young—or at least they think they were young. It’ll probably take dental records to ID them.”
“Oh my God.” Leave it to Susan to start a story like this while people were eating. But Sara was curious in spite of herself. “What happened?”
“Well, they’ve managed to keep it out of the papers, but you know Bobbi’s boyfriend is a Bowie County deputy.” Susan, a semi-pro gossip, repeated everything her daughter told her.
“Okay, but what happened?” asked Sara.
Nash looked up from his plate.
“They were cut to ribbons.” Susan paused for effect before dropping the real bomb. “Sheriff says it was werewolves.”
“Wait a minute,” Nash said. “I heard the vics had knife wounds.”
“Listen to you,” Susan scoffed. “What are you, a cop? How did you hear about it?”
“Some guys on one of my charters know the cops who worked it,” Nash snapped. “But if they were stabbed, it wasn’t werewolves.”
“Yeah, wolves don’t use weapons,” Sara blurted. “It’s not honorable.”
It was out of her mouth before she knew she’d said it. Now both Susan and Nash were staring at her. Susan looked shocked, and maybe a little disgusted.'
Nash looked intrigued. “How do you know about werewolves?”
She shrugged. “Something I read on the Internet once, I guess.” Her hands had started shaking, so she picked up her burger. “I mean, everybody knows that about werewolves.”
“I sure don’t know that.” Susan was looking at Sara like she’d just announced her conversion to Satanism. “Since when do you know so much about werewolves, Sara Mae?”
Nash grinned. “Sara Mae?”
“Don’t start,” she muttered, sill staring at her burger and willing Susan to shut up and go away.
But shutting up was not something Susan knew so much about.
“Well, all I know is Lanny Coe says it looks like werewolves done it. He’s issued silver bullets to all his men and he wants them to be on the lookout.”
“Who the fuck is Lanny Coe and what are his men supposed to be on the lookout for?” Nash asked in exactly the mocking tone of voice Sara often wished she had the nerve to use. “Is he hoping these werewolves stay furry so he can spot ‘em, or does he have some super-secret trick for recognizing them when they’re on two feet?”
Susan’s mouth had stretched into a prim, tight line at Nash’s profanity. Now her eyes narrowed to angry slits as she snapped, “Lanny Coe’s the Sheriff of Bowie County. And he wants his men to catch the creatures that did this, before the FBI shows up and tries to cover for them.”
“Creatures?” Beside her, Nash had gone very still. His tone was mild, but Sara heard the contempt behind his words. It was the contempt of a cosmopolitan big city dweller for an ignorant, small town hick. What really appalled and shamed her—although it had nothing to do with her, so she couldn’t understand why she was so embarrassed—was that the contempt, in this instance, was deserved. Yes, some big city folks could be assholes. But most people in Luxor—well, as far as Sara knew, everyone in Luxor but her—thought exactly the same way Susan did. And that made Sara want to slide under the table and crawl out of the Café.
The worst part was that she just sat there and listened. She couldn’t summon the nerve to tell Susan to shut the hell up.
“And what would you call something that could do what was done to those poor folk?” Susan was asking Nash. She’d set her tray down on their table and crossed her arms, apparently in no hurry to tend to her other customers. A few people at nearby tables were watching the scene unfold. Sara’s face burned.
“I’d probably call them people,” Nash said, still in that mild, almost amused tone. “Then again, I call werewolves people, too. Seriously, Susan, humans can cut people up. Happens all the time. How does Sheriff Coe know it wasn’t a drug deal gone bad?” Susan gasped in shock, but Nash didn’t seem to notice. “Drug dealers can be pretty vicious, and I know y’all have a meth problem up here.”
Oh, dear Lord. Why did he have to bring up drugs?
Susan looked ready to spit. “If it was a drug deal, then it had to be werewolves. We’re good Christian people round here. We don’t take drugs, and we don’t suffer evil things to go upon the earth unchallenged!”
Susan paused as Sara broke out into a strangled, half-hysterical giggle. She couldn’t hold it in. The way Susan said “We don’t take drugs!”—like she really, truly believed it—was bizarre.
Sara’s English professor had talked about “cognitive dissonance,” but she’d never really understood what it meant. Now she did. Though she had to admit—in a town as small as Luxor, cognitive dissonance was probably a survival mechanism.
“Sara Mae, I don’t know what’s got into you,” Susan said, her mouth still pulled into that thin, tight, bitter line. “I really don’t. If your grandmother saw the kind of company you’re keeping, I just know she’d be worried sick.”
The giggles vanished as hot anger rushed in. Sara jerked her head up to stare at the woman she’d known all her life and never really liked. A minute ago, she’d been too afraid to speak. Now she was too furious.
How dare the self-righteous old cow threaten her?
Her hands were shaking again, and so was her voice, as she said, “Nash, I’m not really hungry anymore. Can we go now?”
He looked from Susan to Sara, and then he seemed to finally realize that people were staring at them.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to--”
“No, it’s okay. Let’s go.”
“All right. Susan, I guess we need the check.”
“No we don’t. Susan, put it on my account.” She gave her fellow waitress a look that said, loud and clear, “No tip for you, bitch.”
She felt the eyes on her back all the way out the door.