I have a very special blog entry for you today, courtesy of my good friend-slash-awesome person Jennifer Lynn Barnes.
Now, frequent blog readers will know that Jennifer’s book Raised By Wolves was one of the books of last year that I really, really enjoyed.
Raised by Wolves, totally awesome book
So when Jen asked if I would like to take part in a plan to roll out the first few chapters of the sequel, Trial by Fire, I said heck yeah! Bring them on!
Trial by Fire, totally cool sequel
(which I also titled, btw)
Over the next four days you will be able to read the first four chapters of Jen’s new book on four different author blogs for free. And, lucky me, we are the first stop!
So it’s with great pleasure that I bring you–for the first time!–Trial by Fire (Chapter One)
To read Chapter Two, head on over to Sarah Rees Brennan’s blog tomorrow!
TRIAL BY FIRE:
a Raised by Wolves Novel
By Jennifer Lynn Barnes
“No more school, no more
books, no more teachers’ dirty looks . . .”
For a two-hundred-twenty-pound
werewolf, Devon Macalister had a wicked falsetto. Leaning back in his chair
with casual grace, he shot a mischievous look around our lunch table. “Everyone
As the leader of our little group—not
to mention the alpha of Devon’s pack and his best friend since kindergarten—the
responsibility for shutting down his boy-band tendencies fell to me. “It’s
Thanksgiving break, Dev, not summer vacation, and technically, it hasn’t even
My words fell on deaf ears. The smile
on Devon’s face widened, making him look—to my eyes, at least—more puppy than
wolf. To my left, Lake, whose history with Devon’s flare for the dramatic
stretched back almost as far as mine did, rolled her eyes, but her lips parted
in a grin every bit as irrepressible and lupine as Devon’s.
A wave of energy—pure, undiluted, and
animalistic—vibrated through my own body, and I closed my eyes for one second .
. . two.
In control of the impulse to leap out
of my chair and run for the woods, I glanced across the table at the last
member of our little quartet. Maddy was sitting perfectly still, blinking her
gray eyes owlishly, a soft smile on her lips. Images—of the night sky, of
running—leapt from her mind to mine through our pack-bond, as natural as words
falling off lips.
The impending full moon might have been
giving the rest of our table werewolf ADD, but Maddy was perfectly Zen—much
more relaxed than she normally would have been when all eyes were on the four
Despite our continued efforts to blend
in, the buzz of power in the air and the unspoken promise that within hours, my
friends would shed their human skin were palpable. I recognized the feeling for
what it was, but our very human—and easily fascinated—classmates had no idea.
To them, the four of us were mysterious and magnetic and just a bit unreal—even
In the past nine months, my life had
changed in more ways than I could count, but one of the most striking was the
fact that at my new high school, I wasn’t an outsider, ignored and avoided by
humans who had no idea why people like Devon and Lake—and to a lesser extent
me—felt off. Instead, the other students at Weston
High had developed a strange fascination with us. They didn’t approach. They
didn’t try to penetrate our tight-knit group, but they watched and they
whispered, and whenever Devon—Devon!—met their eyes, the girls sighed and
fluttered their eyelashes in some kind of human mating ritual that I probably
wouldn’t have completely understood even if I’d grown up like a normal girl.
Given that I’d been raised as the only
human child in the largest werewolf pack in North America, the batting of eyelashes
was every bit as foreign to me as running through the woods, surrounded by
bodies and warmth and the feeling of home, would have been to anyone else. Some
days, I felt like I knew more about being a werewolf than I would ever know
about being a teenage girl.
It was getting easier and easier to
forget that I was human.
Soon. Soon. Soon.
The bond that tied me to the rest of
the pack vibrated with the inevitability of the coming moon, and even though I
knew better than to encourage Devon, I couldn’t help the way my own lips tilted
up at the corners. The only things that stood between the four of us and
Thanksgiving break were a couple of hours and a quiz on Shakespeare.
only thing standing between us and delicious, feral freedom was the setting of
And the only thing that stood between
me and Chase—my Chase—was a distance
I could feel the boy in question closing mile by mile, heartbeat by heartbeat,
second by second.
“Bronwyn, please, you’re making me
blush.” Dev—who could read me like a
book, with or without whatever I was projecting through the pack-bond—adopted a
scandalized tone and brought a hand to his chest, like he was seconds away from
demanding smelling salts and going faint. But I sensed his wolf stirring
beneath the surface and knew that it was hard for Devon on a day like today to
be reminded that I wasn’t his to protect in the same way anymore.
I was alpha.
Chase and I were . . . whatever Chase and I were.
I said, flicking a French fry in Devon’s general direc¬tion. “Have it your way.
No more school, no more books . . .”
made an attempt at harmonizing with me, but given my complete lack of vocal
chops, it did not go well, and a horrified silence descended over our entire
several seconds, Devon regarded the rest of us with mock solemnity. “We shall
never speak of this moment again.”
your dreams, Broadway boy.” Shaking out her long blonde hair—a motion laden
with excess adrenaline—Lake stood and stretched her mile-long legs. If the
girls in school were all secretly pining for Devon, the boys were absolutely
smitten with Lake. Clearly, they’d never met the business end of her shotgun or
had their butts whipped at pool.
Soon. Soon. Soon.
the table, Maddy sighed, and Devon bumped her shoulder with his, a comforting
gesture meant to communicate that he understood. Soon, our entire pack would be
gathered in the woods. Soon, the Weres would Shift and I would let their power
flow through me, until I forgot I was human and the difference between four
legs and two virtually disappeared.
not soon enough.
I said, my voice low and soothing, intent on keeping my pack-mates focused,
however briefly, on the here and now. “Hamlet. What do I need to know?”
balked at Lake’s answer. “I was thinking more along the lines of Guildencrantz
and Guildenstern,” Devon corrected absentmindedly as he followed Lake’s gaze to
the double archway at the front of the cafeteria. I turned to look, too, and
the rest of the student body took their cue from us, until everyone was
eyeballing the girl who stood there.
was small—the word tiny wouldn’t have been a misnomer—and her eyes seemed to
take up a disproportionate amount of her face. Her skin was very pale, and she
was dressed almost entirely in black, save for a pair of white leather gloves
that covered her arms from the elbows down.
looked like a porcelain doll, and she felt like a threat. Given that I could
tell, even from a distance, that she wasn’t a Were, I had no idea why something
inside me insisted I track her every move.
natives are getting kind of restless,” Devon commented offhand. Weston wasn’t a
big school, and mid-semester transfers were practically unheard of, so White
Leather Gloves was garnering more than her fair share of murmurs and stares.
I should go play the white knight, divert the spotlight a little?”
suggestion was enough to make me switch my gaze from the new girl to him.
wasn’t sure who was more shocked by the sharpness with which that word exited
my mouth—Devon or me. Our pack didn’t do orders. Given the way I felt about
people getting dictatorial with me, I wasn’t prone to pulling rank on anyone
else. Besides, Devon and I had spent so much time together growing up that even
if he hadn’t been my second-in-command, I still wouldn’t have been able to
force my will on him. The closest I could come to ordering him to do anything
was threatening to decapitate him if he didn’t stop singing The Best of ABBA at the top of his
lungs, and even that was mostly futile.
a lightly inquisitive noise, Devon caught my gaze and held it. “Something you’d
like to share with the class there, Bryn?” he asked, arching one eyebrow to
ridiculous heights while keeping the other perfectly in place.
debated answering, but it was probably nothing—just that time of the month,
with emotions running high and my heart beating with the power of the impending
full moon. Still, I hadn’t spent my entire life growing up around people
capable of snapping my neck like a Popsicle stick without learning to pay
attention when my instincts put me on high alert.
my gut said someone was a threat, I had to at least consider the possibility
that it was true—even if the someone in question was five foot nothing and
human down to the tips of her leather-clad fingers.
of mentioning any of this to Devon and opening that can of worms, I threw
another French fry in his general direction, and the tension between us melted
away as he reached for his plate and armed himself. “You know, of course,” he
said, pitching his voice low, “that this means war.”
couldn’t help glancing back toward the archway and the new girl who’d been
standing there a moment before, but she was already gone.
Pack. Pack. Pack.
Protect. Protect. Protect.
let the feeling wash over me, absorbed it, and then relegated it to the back of
my head, with the promise of soon, soon, soon and the desire to run. At the
moment, I had more immediate concerns—like my retention of Hamlet definitely
leaving something to be desired and the incoming French fry flying directly at
That night, I was the first one to
arrive at the clearing. We hadn’t had a fresh snowfall since the second week in
November, but this time of year, the layer of white on the ground never fully
melted away, and I breathed in the smell of cedar and snow. I was wearing wool
mittens and my second-heaviest winter coat, and for a moment, I closed my eyes
and imagined, as I always did just before the Shift, what it would be like to shed
my clothes, my skin, and my ability to think as a human.
had been a time in my life when the last thing I wanted was the collective
werewolf psyche taking up even a tiny corner of my brain, but a lot had changed
opening my eyes, my hands found their way to the bottom of my puffy jacket, and
I pulled it upward, exposing the T-shirt I wore underneath. My fingers tugged
at the end of the shirt, and my bare skin stung under the onslaught of
my eyes, I traced the pattern rising over the band of my jeans: three parallel
marks, scars I would carry for the rest of my life. For most of my childhood,
the Mark had been a visible symbol to the pack that had raised me that I was
one of their own, that anyone who messed with me messed with the werewolf who’d
dug his fingers into my flesh hard enough to leave scars.
was the alpha of alphas, the Were who’d saved my life when I was four years old
and spent the next decade plus grooming me for a future I’d never even
imagined. No matter how many months passed, every time my pack assembled, every
time I lost myself and ran as one of them, I thought of the first time, of
Callum and his wolves and knowing that for once in my life, I belonged.
time I heard the word alpha beckoning to me from my pack’s minds, I thought of
the man who’d once been mine—and then I thought of the other alphas, none of
whom would have been particularly distraught if I went to sleep one night and
never woke up.
werewolf politics. My favorite.
moment I heard Chase’s voice, soft and unassuming, in my mind, every other
thought vanished. It was always this way with the two of us, and the anticipation
of seeing him, touching him, taking in his scent was almost as powerful as the
feeling that washed over my body the moment he emerged from the forest, clothed
in shorts and a T-shirt that didn’t quite fit.
had been a werewolf for less than a year. Ironically, that made him seem far
less human than Weres who’d been born that way or the members of our pack who’d
been Changed as kids. The difference was visible in the way he moved, the tilt
of his head. For as long as I’d known him, he’d been in flux, defined by the
wolf inside as much as the boy he’d been before the attack.
slowly, things I’d felt in his memories and dreams, quirks he’d shown only in
flashes seemed to be fighting their way back to the surface. Each time he came
home from patrolling our territory as my eyes and ears, I saw a little bit more
of his human side.
time, he was a little more Chase.
you.” Chase smiled, more with one side of his mouth than the other.
I echoed, a smile tugging at my own lips. “How’s tricks?”
took those words leaving my mouth as a sign that I’d been hanging around Devon
for way, way too long, but Chase didn’t so much as blink.
old, same old.” He was quiet, this boy I was getting to know piece by
piece—thoughtful, observant, and restrained, even as the power in his stride
betrayed the wolf inside. “How’s school going?”
old, same old.”
no such thing as ‘same old, same old’ with you,” Chase said wryly. “You’re Bryn.”
my track record, he kind of had a point there, but I wasn’t about to admit it out
that same half smile, he leaned toward me, hesitant, but inhumanly graceful. I
answered the question in his eyes, reached for the back of his head, brought
his lips down to mine.
Soon. Soon. Soon.
could feel his heart beating, feel his mind and thoughts blending with my own
as the two of us stood there, bathed in moonlight and feeling its effects like
Chase was, he was mine.
known before I kissed Chase that we’d be interrupted. There was no such thing
as a secret in a wolf pack—let alone privacy. But I’d been foolishly optimistic
and hoped that the interrupter would be Lake or Maddy or one of the younger
as Chase and I pulled away from each other, we were confronted with the oldest
member of our pack, a gruff, weatherworn man who didn’t look a day over
thirty-five. Based on the way his lips were twitching, I concluded that the man
in question was torn between smiling and scowling.
Mr. Mitchell,” I said, hoping to push him toward the smiling end of the
spectrum. A guarded look settled over Chase’s eyes, but he echoed my greeting,
and Lake’s dad gave us a long, measuring stare in return.
suspect the earth would keep rotating round the sun even if the two of you
called me Mitch.”
the time I’d been living on the Mitchells’ land, Mitch and I had had this
conversation more than once, but I wasn’t really the type to give in once I dug
my heels in about something.
noted, Mr. Mitchell.”
smile finally won out over his scowl, but it lasted only a second or two before
Mitch eyed the space (or lack thereof) between my body and Chase’s. “Last I
heard, Ali was on her way here with the twins,” he said, which I took as a
not-so-subtle hint that Chase and I should give each other some breathing room.
Chase must have interpreted it the same way, because he stepped back—away from
me and away from Mitch, who delivered the rest of his update with a nod. “Lake
and Maddy are rounding up the troops, and I believe Devon said something about
making an entrance.”
was fairly certain that I was the only alpha in the history of the world to
have a second-in-command who appreciated the impact of arriving fashionably
late. Then again, I was also the only alpha with as many females in her pack as
males and more toddlers and tweens than grown men.
it wasn’t like the whole human thing
was status quo.
“Bryn!” The unmistakable sound of a very
small person bellowing ripped me from my thoughts, and I smiled. There was
nothing quite like hearing my name yelled at the top of a three-year-old’s
lungs—unless it was having the aforementioned three-year-old barrel into me
full blast and throw her arms around my legs like she was afraid that if she
let go, I’d disappear off the face of the earth forever.
Lily,” I said wryly. The kid acted like she hadn’t seen me in a lifetime or
two, even though it had only been an hour, if that.
Moon! Happy! Fun!
the older wolves, I had to go looking for thoughts, unless someone was using
the pack-bond to actively send them my way, but with Lily, everything was right
there on the surface, bubbling up the way only the strongest emotions did in
two words—alpha and Bryn—blended together in her mind. As
the youngest of the kids I’d saved from the werewolf equivalent of a
psychopath, Lily was one of the only ones who couldn’t remember the time before
our pack, or the things that the Rabid had done to her, to all of them.
Lily’s mind, Bryn meant alpha, and alpha meant Bryn. It was
as simple as that.
we Change yet?” Lily asked. “Can we, can we, can we?”
Not yet, Lily, I answered silently, and she
stilled, mesmerized by a power I’d never asked to hold over anyone.
I told you to wait.” The voice that issued that statement was aggrieved, and
the look on its owner’s face was one I recognized all too well from my own
to think of it, it was a look I recognized all too well from about a week ago,
Ali,” I said, glad that Chase and I had heeded Mitch’s warning and put a little
space between my body and his.
baby,” Ali replied, a twin on each hip. “Everyone’s been fed, but I make no
guarantees about their state of mind.”
most of my life, it had been just Ali and me, but she’d taken to managing an
entire brood with the same efficiency with which she’d once transformed herself
from a twenty-year-old college student into my protector within Callum’s pack.
Ali was human, but the words force of
nature still applied, and I would infinitely rather have tangled with an
irritated werewolf than Ali in mama bear mode.
Lily asked, right on cue with Ali’s disclaimer about the younger werewolves’
state of mind. “Now-now-now?”
I said, and Lily closed her mouth and laid her head against my knee.
know, Bryn,” Ali said thoughtfully, “if Lily minded me half as well as she
minds you, I wouldn’t be considering renaming her Bryn Two.”
I retorted. “Very funny.”
smiled. “I try.” She looked toward Mitch, and without saying a word, he walked
over and took Katie and Alex from her arms. Not even a year old, Ali’s babies
already looked more like toddlers, and in identical motions, their hands found
their way almost immediately to Mitch’s beard.
smiled. “I’ve got them,” he told Ali, and she nodded before kissing the twins
and turning to walk back out of the woods. Ali never stayed to run with the
far as I knew, she never had.
Now, Bryn? Now?
refrained from asking the question out loud, but I heard it through the
pack-bond all the same, and this time, the answer—soon, soon, soon—seemed to come from outside my body, from
instincts I couldn’t have explained to the human world. Lily seemed to feel it,
too, and a keening, whimpering sound built in the back of her throat. I ran a
hand gently over her bright red hair and she began rocking back and forth on
her feet. Within moments, the others had arrived, filling the clearing, and the
effect was magnified a hundred times.
pack was small—twenty-two total, only eighteen there that night—but the air was
electric, and as their thoughts swirled with my own, the connection between us
became a living, breathing thing. I felt them, all of them: Lake and Maddy,
Lily and the twins, Chase. From the youngest to the oldest, from those who thirsted
for a hunt to those who wanted nothing more in life than to run . . .
slid in beside me, and the moment I felt the brush of his arm against mine, I
other packs, this was formal. There were petitions and ceremonies and marks
carved into flesh, but here and now, I didn’t have words, and they didn’t need
Now. Now. Now.
couldn’t deny the Change any more than they could. The treetops scattered
moonlight across our faces, and I inclined my head. That was all it took.
any other time of the month, the sound of tearing fabric and crunching bones
wasn’t a pleasant one, but under the full moon, the effect was like the beating
of a drum.
Run. Run. Run.
around me, they could taste it. They could feel it. Furred bodies pushed at
each other to get closer to me, to touch me, to sniff me, to be with me, and
the roar from their minds was overwhelming.
Alpha. Alpha. Alpha.
forgot about Chase, about Devon, about each and every one of them as anything
other than my brothers, my sisters, my people, my pack.
was what I’d been born for. This was all that I wanted and all that I was, and
as one overwhelming, unstoppable, incredible force, we ran.
Remember, Chapter Two is just a day–and a click away. Check out the blog of the one, the only, Sarah Rees Brennan tomorrow to read more.
As a bonus gift/prize/offer, tonight at midnight Central Standard Time I giving an autographed copy of Uncommon Criminals to one person who leaves a comment below. How does it work? You leave a comment. I chose a random number. The person who left that comment (first, second, two hundred and forty-fifth, whatever) will win a book. I’ll post the winner on Saturday’s blog and then the winner can email me with their mailing address. Simple.
(I’m afraid due to legal restrictions, the give-away is open to US and Canadian residents only)
EDITED TO ADD: CHAPTER TWO IS NOW AVAILABLE RIGHT HERE.