Okay, yes it is a sick day. I have a headache and I feel like my body has a migraine. I am at the cottage so recovery should be swift but for now I feel like shite. Instead of an insightful bit of prose, I offer you the prologue for Witch Hitlist, the first Highland Wolves novel.
It was a hell of a lot of fun to write, difficult though. To get the imagery down I had to try and figure out what the Astral Realm might look like for other people. For those who can travel astrally it tends to appear as they wish to see it. There are basic landmarks and things to be found but I think the colours and… erm… fabrics of the landscape are individual.
Anyway, here’s the prologue. Enjoy!
Some called it the Astral Realm, some called it the Ether and still others called it Purgatory. Some had no idea what to call it. But to Anna Conner it had always been Home. Her stay in the human Realm was temporary. A long temporary to be sure, going on five thousand years now one life after another, but it was still temporary. Many people had come and gone in that time, very few had hung around for more than a couple of centuries.
She had hoped, long ago, that she’d find the One who could stick it out with her. Who would understand her, stand beside her, fight at her back, fight for her and mostly, finally, love her. Anna had been wrong before but she thought she had finally found that One. It was a Romeo and Juliette situation though. She was a Montague, a Vampire, and he was a Capulet, a Werewolf. It was he she was standing with in her Home now, in a large field outside her Father’s keep, lit only by the full moon above. They were surrounded by his pack. Only he and his Beta, his second in command, stood in the circle of Wolves with her.
Anna stared into his eyes, seeing the love glowing there along with a fierce determination.
Liam Taggart was a Wolf. He wasn’t a Wolf ‘spirit’. He wasn’t one of those whose animal guide is a Wolf. He wasn’t a wannabe Wolf. Liam was a Wolf. A full blown, gets furry and toothy once a month, Werewolf. And he was in love with a Vampire.
That Vampire was the only reason he was standing in this godforsaken Realm with her. He hated it here, it was too vague. He had to rely on her vision to see it. He was learning but right now the only reason it was worth it was her. He got to touch her here, be with her. He felt helpless being in Scotland while she was in Canada and constantly under attack. There was only one way he knew to protect her better. The reason they were standing here in the middle of his pack with her facing him and his Beta at her back.
They were going to bite her.
Time stopped for all of them and the world went still as Liam stared into Anna’s eyes and she stared back. His gaze shifted and he looked her over. She had done as he asked and worn a gown that left her neck and shoulders bare. It was ruby red, edged in black, gold threads sparkled as she breathed, her family’s colours. The bodice went straight across below her collar bone and onto her biceps. Tight fitted sleeves hugged her arms down to her wrists where black lace draped over both hands. The skirts flowed from a dropped waist to the ground in tiers, alternating red and black.
Liam thought he’d never seen anything more beautiful. But then, Anna thought the same thing about him in his formal long kilt of red and blue, the crisp white shirt open at the throat and even the hose, flashes and Ghillie brogues. His Sgian Dubh was slid into the outside of his right sock and now he reached down to slowly pull it out.
The entire pack watched as Liam unsheathed the short blade, tucking the sheath into the chain belt of his sporran. He took Anna’s right wrist in his left hand and lifted it up to her shoulder level. Then he lifted his eyes to his pack. He slowly turned the two of them in a circle as he spoke, so he could meet the eyes of every Wolf gathered.
“We are all here tonight for one reason, to induct my Mate, the love of my life, into our pack. We are here to make her one of us.” Each Wolf stared back at them, their faces marked with a small red symbol, painted on with Dragon’s blood. “Tonight she will share of our blood, for my blood is your blood. And we will share of hers, for her blood will be your blood.” Liam paused. Every Wolf howled and stamped their feet in agreement.
Anna blushed and smiled, joy blooming in her heart.
Almost faster than she could track, Liam sliced the palm of her hand open, then his. He slammed their palms together and light flashed as Vampire blood hit Werewolf, as her raw power hit his and their blood began to mingle. He dipped his head and took her mouth in a savage kiss as the Wolves around them shifted form, their marks ending up on the insides of their ears. Marcus and Liam were the only ones that retained their human shape.
Once he felt Anna melt into the kiss, completely involved in it and not their surroundings, he opened his eyes and looked at Marcus. The Beta nodded then lunged forward. He pinned Anna between their bodies and managed to shift only his mouth. He bit into her shoulder, deeply, fiercely, where neck curves to shoulder.
Anna’s body stiffened and she screamed into Liam’s mouth. He broke the kiss and held her bloody hand tightly with his as Marcus tore the bite wide open. Marcus stepped back, staggering as Anna’s blood trickled down his throat. He spit the rest of the blood and the meat of her shoulder to the ground and dropped to his knees as her Power hit his and forced him to shift. He growled then howled his approval of her.
Liam watched her as Anna’s eyes flickered, changing from green to blue to black to amber and back again. She screamed again as her Vampire fought the Lycanthropy and the Wolf fought to find a home in her body. Anna fought Liam wildly as an internal battle raged in the landscape of her mind. Finally, after she drew deep gouges down his face, he was forced to let her go.
Anna dropped to the ground as Liam and the Wolves watched helplessly. She looked possessed, writhing against an unseen foe. Her back arched; every muscle taut, then they contracted again suddenly and she wound up in the fetal position. A low keening noise came from deep within her.
Tears rolled down Liam’s face and Marcus came and pressed against his side as the sounds of tearing flesh and popping joints mingled with fresh screams from Anna. Her gown tore and blood flowed from fresh wounds as her body ripped itself apart. Clouds drifted across the moon, blackening the night. She seemed torn inside out, her blood mingling with the remains of her gown, indistinguishable in the darkness, even to the Wolf eyes locked on her form.
Her heart stopped beating and Liam’s voice ripped through the night in a wail of absolute anguish. He fell to his knees, landing in a pool of her blood as he sobbed uncontrollably. Almost as one, the entire pack dropped to their bellies and crept closer, keening mournfully. For several long moments there was nothing but the despair of the Wolves.
Then, at last, a small movement. With it was the loud, wet sound of a joint sliding apart. And another. Along with it there came a soft moan of pain and an explosion of light. The Wolves were all blown backwards, some of them landed with yelps and whines. Anna screamed again from within the light and Liam lunged forward, trying to reach her. He bounced off the light again and again, shouting her name.
His pack growled, uncertain as to what was going on but distressed by their Alpha’s anger and pain. One after another they leapt at the light surrounding their Alpha’s Mate, trying to break through. Anna’s cries finally stopped and the Wolves stood warily, waiting.
As suddenly as it came, the light vanished and in Anna’s place stood a large black Wolf with silver streaks in her fur.
Before my Soul taught me, Love was for me a delicate thread stretched between two adjacent pegs, but now it has been transformed into a halo; its first is its last, and its last is its first. It encompasses every being, slowly expanding to embrace all that ever will be. ~ Khalil Gibran