Hello guys! I’m so happy to tell you that my latest book Mages in Manhattan is now available on Amazon. As a bonus, why don’t we all enjoy reading the first chapter.
Prey of the Pack
The car slammed to a stop, bouncing my bound form against the divider. The driver had careened through the streets with abandon, securely strapped in himself, taking pleasure in the thumps and moans of his cargo. The bastards had even gone to the trouble of disconnecting the emergency interior handle that would have let me open the trunk from the inside. Even though I was bound, they were taking no chances.
We finally came to an abrupt stop, which slammed my abused head against the divider one last time. The trunk was popped open, and cool forest air rushed in. The full moon was almost painfully bright to my dark-accustomed eyes, and I squinted as several inhumanly strong hands grabbed my arms and pulled me from the trunk.
The car’s stereo suddenly came to life, playing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s version of “Bad Moon Rising.” My captors turned abruptly but maintained their grip. “Never mind,” said the red-haired were. “That crap happens all the time around these types.”
I was dumped in the center of a circle of jeering werewolves, who were still in their human forms but showing the rabid anger of their kind. Even with my hands bound behind me, I managed to tuck my head in, roll over my shoulder, and come to my feet. Landing on my back would have marked me as helpless prey and brought out their pack instincts.
I ended up facing the pack’s alpha, Frost. He smiled at me like a parent proud of a toddler’s first steps.
Now that my feet were on the earth, I could feel the slightest trickle of magical energy flow up through the soles of my bare feet. The magic was met with an immediate sharp increase in the temperature of the shackles holding my arms behind my back. The scent of burning flesh wafted through the air.
His smile was huge, exposing his canines as he inhaled the aroma. “Please don’t use your magic,” he said. “We prefer our meat rare.”
Ignoring the pain in my wrists and forearms, I smiled back through gritted teeth. “I will wear your ears on my belt as a trophy.”
Frost roared with laughter. “A last, great act of defiance! I love magicians!”
The rest of the pack laughed along with him, the laughs turning into howls. He continued, “Now to make this fair—”
“You’re going to cut off the shackles?” I interrupted.
With a casual movement, he slapped the side of my head, leaving a set of bleeding claw marks and a ringing in my ears.
“Not that fair, Scott,” he said. “We will give you a thirty-minute head start before we begin the hunt. That’ll give the new cubs time to change.” As if to show he didn’t need extra time, he transformed into his half-human, half-wolf hybrid form, the form only senior weres could take. As he shifted, his tailored suit tore across the shoulders, and he casually used his claws to finish ripping off the constraining garment. Behind his back, several of the new pack members shivered in excitement as their snouts extended and fangs sprouted. The full transformation would take a while for them.
“Thirty minutes,” I said. “When does the clock start?”
“From the moment we pulled you from the trunk…,” he said to my retreating back as I headed towards the tree line, his laughter following me.
Damn, five minutes wasted while they played with their prey. I started an internal countdown as I darted under the trees. The moonlight cut off abruptly, and the brambles and bushes formed an almost impenetrable barrier. Without magic, I was down to my purely physical resources: I was strong, but not as strong as a wolf; fast, but not as fast as a wolf; smart, but not smart enough to have avoided getting captured. The damned cuffs holding my hands behind my back made running almost impossible, my slower-than-a-wolf pace made even slower by my balance problems.
I had excellent night vision, but the forest was dense with undergrowth. Even being able to see every step wasn’t much help. Still, I ran as quickly as possible, hoping to put enough space between me and the pack to give me time to work on the magic-negating cuffs. As I ran, my invisible satchel bounced against my side with each step. If only I could access the contents of the satchel, the fight would be fair. But even if my hands were in front, making the satchel accessible, opening it required magic. I cursed myself for having locked my most potent weapons away.
The brambles were shredding my feet, leaving a blood trail for the pack to follow. Not that my passage through the forest was unnoticeable; I was leaving a trail a blind man could follow. After five minutes by my internal clock, I was gasping for air and slowed down, only to hear the howls of the pack as they started to follow. Damn werewolves. I always knew they were untrustworthy. I controlled my breathing and increased my pace.
I needed a clear space to face the pack; letting them harry me from the underbrush, nipping at my hamstrings, was a quick route to the other side. Finally, I came across a small clearing. A huge tree had fallen recently, its trunk near the roots almost seven feet high. Due to the shade of the giant tree, the undergrowth in the clearing was minimal, and it hadn’t had time to grow back. It wasn’t perfect, but it was better than nothing.
I braced my back against the trunk and struggled to control my breathing. My fingers fumbled at the manacles, feeling for a keyhole or release. I used to be pretty good at that, in a previous life, but my lock-picking skills had withered thanks to my increasing dependence on magic. As I strained at the manacles, Frost entered the clearing, followed by his pack. He took a few moments to change his mouth to an almost-human configuration to speak. “Are you ready for the hunt to end, Scott?”
A sense of calm came over me as I stepped forward to face him in the center of the clearing. Between one step and the next, my mind flashed back to the happier days of just a few weeks before, and to the path that had led to this moment.
I hope you enjoyed it guys! For more of Mages in Manhattan, get it here.