Wolf's Huntsman Preview & Update
Book 4 in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series
Wolf's Mission, Book 3 of the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series is now available in both Kindle ebook and paperback. The official publish date was July 15, 2017.
My current work-in-progress is the next book in the series titled Wolf's Huntsman.
In this story, a huntsman who helped them with their mission in book 3 becomes a reluctant ally.
Thinking the wolves kidnapped him, his sister and her friend decide to go to the ranch and rescue him. At least that's what his sister thinks is happening.
But betrayal begets betrayal.
Can even the Royal Lycos set things right?
Can even the Royal Lycos set things right?
So far, I have 17 chapters complete, and the story is about half done. A preview containing the first three chapters are below:
Paige Marston stood at parade rest before the Huntsmen Triumvirate. Blinking against the spotlight fixed on her, she swallowed and tried to see past the bright lights to study the three commanders’ hard expressions. Unsure why she was ordered to face the Triumvirate, she searched her mind, trying to discover what she might have done.
Supreme Commander Reinhardt, sitting at the center of the table, frowned at her. “You are Lieutenant Paige Marston, Phillip Marston’s sister?”
“Sir, I am.” Whatever Phillip did, they were not happy about it. Behind her back, her right hand clenched her left wrist, her fingers spasming with sudden nerves.
“Have you heard from Philip?”
“Sir, no, sir. The last time he called, he was headed to Canada for guard duty. That’s all he would say, sir.” Under the spot light, her uniform coat was stifling. Sweat trickled down her back. She tightened her shoulders against her body’s need to twitch.
“You are aware he has not passed his trials?”
“Sir, yes, sir. His final trials are in August.”
“Do you believe he has the fortitude and dedication to be incorporated into the Huntsmen Collective?”
Paige blinked. She thought about her younger brother, his blatant disregard of their father’s attempt at Huntsmen indoctrination. Truth be told, she didn’t think he fit the Collective’s needs. But, saying so would get him killed. And he was her baby brother. “Sir, I don’t have reason to believe otherwise.”
The three men bent their heads together, their discussion too soft for her to hear. Paige swallowed, struggling against the need to clear her throat, and tried to keep her concern for her brother out of her expression. The men sat up and faced her. The Supreme Commander leaned slightly toward her. “Your orders, Paige Marston, are to find your brother and bring him to us.”
“We have reason to believe he is with the werewolves in Texas. Retrieve him.”
“That’s the location of his uniform beacon.”
Paige’s heart lurched in her chest. “Sir, why would he be with the werewolves?”
“Before his partner was destroyed, his report indicated that the wolves took your brother.”
Stunned, Paige gasped. “Destroyed, sir?”
“He was bitten by the wolf he was guarding. We don’t allow our people to become werewolves.”
Paige tried twice before she could force out her question. “The wolves took Phillip?”
“They did. Find him. If he has turned, kill him. If not, bring him back to face charges.”
“I don’t understand, sir. Charges?”
“Your brother is a traitor to the Collective, Lieutenant. He released our captive.”
Bowing her head, Paige gave the answer they expected. “Sir, yes, sir!” When they dismissed her, she saluted and then marched smartly out of the Triumvirate Court office. Holding a tight rein on her emotions, she avoided everyone in her haste to get to her quarters. Shutting the door quietly behind her, she slumped against the door. “Oh, Phillip, what have you done?”
When a knock sounded on the door behind her, she straightened, pulled her uniform jacket off and hung it on hanger suspended from a hook on the door. Taking a deep breath, she smoothed her face to be expressionless and opened the door.
Xandrie Schneider shoved past Paige, dropped on the bunk, and leaned back on her elbows. “What happened?”
Paige shut the door behind Xandrie and turned to study her. Xandrie’s long blonde hair, a darker blonde than her own, was neatly pulled back into a regulation bun, her uniform jacket splayed open to show her t-shirt. Paige sighed. “Werewolves have captured Phillip. They’re sending me to retrieve him.”
Xandrie grinned. “So, we’re going hunting.”
“Captain Weber ordered me to accompany you on your mission.” She sat up. “We going incognito or wearing our uniforms?”
“Incognito, I suppose. According to the Supreme Commander, they’re holding Phillip on a ranch in Texas.”
“Great! Never been to Texas. Maybe we’ll have time for some sightseeing.”
Thinking Xandrie was trying to cheer her up, Paige gave her a weak smile. “You ever seen a real werewolf?”
“Nope, but I think I’ll know one when I do.”
Xandrie laughed. “Mom says they all smell funny. Like wet dogs that need a bath.”
Paige felt her grin slip a little and reinforced it. “Maybe. I never smelled one. Or saw one, either. Phillip doesn’t think they really exist.” Too late, she realized what she said. Her gaze snapped to Xandrie’s face.
Xandrie pursed her lips and nodded. “I heard that about him.” She tilted her head, her eyes narrowing as the look she gave Paige intensified. “What about you? You believe in werewolves?”
“My dad’s never lied to me. He says he hunted one last year in France and killed the whole family, so, I guess so.” She turned her back to Xandrie’s too perceptive gaze and opened her closet. “Incognito. Think jeans and t-shirts are good enough? I hear June weather in Texas feels like August here.”
“My aunt moved to Corpus Christie two years ago. I was supposed to go visit her last summer, but Dad sent me to the Huntsman Training Camp, instead. Maybe we can go visit her, while we are there.”
“Maybe. You said you only have the one aunt, right.” Paige glanced over her shoulder to see Xandrie nod. “What’s she doing in Texas?”
Xandrie waited until Paige turned around, several pairs of jeans and t-shirts draped over her arms. “She keeps tabs on the financial doings of the Texas pack.”
“Hmm. If we have time, I don’t see why we can’t swing down and visit for a bit. Not sure we have time, though. We’re supposed to bring Phillip back here.” Paige started folding her clothes to go into her suitcase.
“If he hasn’t turned.”
Paige looked up. “What?”
“If he’s turned, we have to kill him. In that case, we’ll have plenty of time for a visit.”
“What are you going in the dirt, Mom?”
Cynthia Thomas pulled the brim of her sun hat lower to shade her eyes from the early morning Texas sunlight and looked up at her foster-son. He would be her adopted son, but he didn’t agree to the adoption when he was a teen. He refused until he knew what happened to his step-dad. Now that he knew, well, adoption was probably about twenty years too late.
“Good morning, Nate.” She pointed at the flower bed with the hand hoe in her right hand. “These flowers are strangling for nutrients with all the weeds in this garden. Just thought I’d clean it up a bit.”
Nate sucked air between his teeth. “We have someone who can do that.”
“I know that.” Cynthia frowned at him. “Stop making that noise.”
She tried to keep her face straight, but the chagrin on the face of her hulking, 6-foot 4-inch son was just too funny. “And that’s no better.”
He grinned, unrepentant as always, and Cynthia shook her head. “I thought you had to work today.”
“Supervising what goes on here on the ranch is my work.”
“You don’t still work in San Antonio?” When Nate looked askance at her, she knew she was losing it again. Pretending nothing was wrong, she shrugged. “Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t thinking.”
“It’s already over 90 degrees out here. Why don’t you come inside and have some tea to cool off?”
Cynthia sighed. “You’re not going to start acting like your dad, are you? He’s always telling me what I can’t do.”
“He’s just worried you’ll overdo it.” Nate offered his hand, and she let him pull her up.
“I know. It’s just . . ..” Cynthia shrugged. “Guess I’m not as young as I used to be.” She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the back of her right hand, careful not to let the hand hoe scrape her face, then brushed the dirt, grass, and leaves off the knees of her jeans. “Where’s your dad?”
Nate shrugged. “I think he went to his office.”
“It’s strange to have such a nice, comfortable building just sitting there empty, Nate.”
“I suppose so.” He was keeping something from her. Cynthia stopped and looked at him. “Something bad happened here, didn’t it?”
He opened the kitchen door and held it for her. “Bad things happen everywhere, Mom.”
She sat on the stool he led her to, then watched him pour her a glass of tea from the pitcher Janelle kept in the fridge. The air conditioning was a welcome respite to the heat outside. “Is it a bigger secret than almost everyone here being a werewolf or some such?”
Nate poured a second glass of tea for himself, then walked back to the bar and sat beside her. “Here you go, Mom.” He shook his head. “A lot happened here before I even got here. Most of the werewolves that lived here were killed in an attack.” He sipped his tea. “The office dad is using was the school house. Except for the teens on a training run, all the kids that lived here died in the school during the attack. The wolves don’t like to go in there. Too many memories, so I thought we could use the space for Dad and Don to use as an office and barracks for the two soldiers stationed here with them.”
Cynthia bit her lip. “Is it safe here, Nate?”
“As safe as we can make it. The people who attacked before are dead, and there’s no reason to believe anyone else will try.” He drained his tea glass in one long swallow, ignoring the frown she fixed on him. “Anyway, that’s why I keep patrols running. If someone comes to the ranch, we’ll know about it before they can cause too much mischief.”
“Mischief.” The word seemed inadequate for the atrocity he described. She sighed. “How is Janelle, this morning?”
“Moving slow. Baby’s due anytime, now, and she’s a bit grumpy.”
Cynthia laughed. “You’d be grumpy, too, if you had to carry twenty pounds all day, every day, on top of your bladder.”
“I suppose so.”
She studied his pensive look. “What’s on your mind, son?”
Nate’s gaze rose to meet hers. “Being a dad is . . ..”
When his voice tapered off, she grinned. “Awe inspiring? Ecstatic? Incredible? Terrifying?”
He nodded. “Yeah. All that and more.”
“It’s a big responsibility, Nate, but you’re up to it. You’ll be a wonderful father.” She put her hand on his arm. “I believe in you.”
“Thanks, Mom.” He gave her a quick hug. “Guess I better get back to work. Don’t stay out in the sun, too long, okay?”
She shushed him. “I’m fine, Nate.”
He stood and looked at her, a frown on his face. “You know, as good as you are with flower gardens, maybe you would like to help Phillip with the landscaping. He could do the work and you could supervise.”
Laughing, she shook her head. “Trying to keep me out of the dirt?”
“No. Yes.” A sheepish grin snuck onto his lips. “But, I would like to have someone keep an eye on Phillip, and he’s still scared of most of the were.”
“I can understand that. How old is he, anyway? Not much more than a boy, I’d bet.”
Nate blinked. “I didn’t ask, but now you mention it, he does look pretty young.” He tilted his head and grinned at her. “Why don’t you take him under your wing and find out?”
“And let you know?”
“Only if you think it’s something I need to know.”
“Okay. I think I can handle another wayward youth.”
Nate raised an eyebrow. “I hope you aren’t referring to me.”
Cynthia laughed. “Of course, I am. Both you and Eli. Boys will be boys, after all.” She waved her hand in a dismissive manner. “Go on. I’ll find him and see what I can find out.”
Grinning, Nate set his empty tea glass in the sink, then left, both hands in his pockets.
Taking another sip of her tea, Cynthia considered Nate’s suggestion. It would be nice to talk to someone normal. Human. Not that she minded being around werewolves, werepanthers, and werebears. After all, both her sons were werewolves. But . . . sometimes, she wished she still didn’t know. Wished life was still simple. And safe.
Sighing, she set her glass in the sink beside Nate’s. Wondering if Phillip was having as much trouble acclimating to the ranch as she was, Cynthia put away her garden tools. She washed her hands to get the garden dirt off, then dried them on a paper towel. She headed out the kitchen door to find Phillip.
Eli Thomas pulled his new SUV, a wedding gift from Nate, his foster brother, to the side of the road. Shifting into park, he left the engine running and turned in his seat to study his nervous bride. Her right hand was wrapped around the seat belt crossing her chest, her thumb brushing the edge of the belt while she stared out her window. She hadn’t said two words in six hours. “Want to tell me what’s wrong?”
Renate Thomas, formerly Renate Bianchi, sighed and looked at him. “I just don’t know how well this is going to go over.”
“You think I can’t handle it?”
Renate nibbled her bottom lip. “Being the Alpha of a pack isn’t like being a soldier or a cop, Eli. As a werewolf, even a made-wolf, those jobs were fairly safe for you.”
“I didn’t know that at the time.” Less than a month ago, Eli learned his childhood blood-brother pact with his foster brother changed him to were. The charmed medallion Nate always wore prevented either of them from shifting. Absently, Eli touched the medallion he wore. It was identical to the one Nate wore while they were growing up.
“True.” She put her small hand on his arm. “Eli, I’m not disparaging your courage. You survived a fight with Sinclair. Not many were could.”
Eli frowned. “You don’t think I can do this. Why didn’t you say something before we left the ranch?”
“It’s not that I think you can’t do it.” She gave him a half smile. “I just don’t think you know what you are walking into. Nate practically fell into the Alpha position. After the panthers attacked, there were no strong wolves left alive to challenge him. It won’t be that way here.”
“So tell me.” Being a werewolf was new to Eli, but he was learning.
Renate sighed and nodded. “Pack order is determined by strength and power.”
“Is it the strength or power you think I don’t have.” The words sounded angry. Eli sighed, then shook his head and picked up her hand. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean that the way it sounded. If I don’t understand, please explain it so that I can.”
She squeezed his hand. “It can also be determined by guile and tricks. I have no doubt you can win a fight, Eli, but some of these guys are sneaky and have a mean streak.”
“I’ve dealt with hard cases before.” He grinned. “I am a Marine, you know.” Eli loved hearing her laugh.
“Yes, I know. And a member of the General’s Elite.” She tilted her head and smiled. “Okay. Here’s what will happen. When we get there, you must immediately claim the Alpha position. Someone will be . . . I suppose a good word is ‘annoyed’ by it and challenge you.”
“So I have to fight.”
“Maybe. Probably.” She frowned again. “Eli, if you kill your challengers, you will cement your role in the pack, but it will cause a lot of anger and descent with their families. You must fight only until your opponent surrenders and acknowledges you as the superior wolf. Make sure he admits your dominance before the whole pack.”
“You guys kill each other for the Alpha role?”
“You killed Sinclair.”
Eli shook his head. “I fought Sinclair. You killed him.”
To be continued . . ..
Want to catch up on the series?
Book 1: Wolf's Man
Book 2: Wolf's Claim
Book 3: Wolf's Mission
Book 4: Wolf's Huntsman (Coming Soon!)