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Brushing Off the Dust

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything on this blog. I’ve been on indefinite hiatus from writing romance while I dealt with some personal stuff, including both my kids moving out of the house, one to college and the other to be a partner and stepparent.

It’s been a stressful few months, with occasional breaks of fun and entertainment.

Many of my books are now out of print. Those include the entire Real Werewolves Don’t Eat Meat series and all associated books with MLR Press and Passion in Print Press, as well as all of my other titles with those two imprints. They also include all but three of my Ellora’s Cave titles, though I’ve heard rumblings around the internet that all Ellora’s Cave authors are having their rights returned in December. All of my Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens books are off the market, since the publisher closed.

On the plus side, my Loose Id titles are still available, as are Love Like Vampires from Dreamspinner Press, and Dawn Over Dayfield from DSP Publications. Dawn Over Dayfield is now an award-winning book! In August, it took first place in the Mystery category of the Florida Authors and Publishers Association President’s Awards! That was hugely exciting. Now I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens with the Edgar Awards, since Dawn Over Dayfield is also nominated for that.

My self-published novel Vengeance Is Sweet is also still available as an Amazon exclusive, e-book only.

I haven’t written any new romances. I don’t know whether I’m going to. I used to love writing them, but once I started writing for publication, and trying to get more and more books out there in the world, it became stressful and painful. Personal life circumstances didn’t help. I haven’t even been able to think of a romance *plot* in over a year, and I’m not sure whether that’s going to change.

But I still have books out there in the world, and I want to make sure people find them. I want to make sure people know *I* still exist. And someday in the future, I might self-publish some of my previously-published books even if I don’t write anything new. It remains to be seen.

I’m still writing young adult fiction under my Jo Ramsey pen name, though. I’m working on some nonfiction projects about healing, trauma recovery, and magic. (The witchcraft/spiritual version, not the up on stage with a top hat kind.) I’m starting a business related to those topics as well. I’m getting used to being an “empty nester,” and spending time with my partners and friends.

I’ll be blogging here twice a week. Mondays will be posts on a variety of topics; Thursdays will be short excerpts from my books, including some of the off-the-market ones. So I hope you’ll tune in, same Karenna time, same Karenna channel. (Wow… I hope I’m not the only one old enough to know that reference…)

Teaser Thursday- Tempeh for Two

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“Kyle, stop wallowing,” I snapped.

Glen and Kendra stared at me. I sounded harsh as hell, and they probably thought I was being a complete asshole. I didn’t disagree, but it was the only thing that Kyle might actually hear.

“You saved my fucking life.” I leaned across the island and tried to look Kyle in the eye. The tension returned to his body. Anger, this time.

Knock this off, I said, choosing this time to speak through the mate bond so I wouldn’t piss off Kendra and Glen. I know it’s hard. You hate what you had to do. That’s good. It means you don’t do it lightly. But you had to. This wasn’t a time you could have made a different choice. No matter what you did, someone would have died in that room.

Fuck you, he said.

Later. It’ll get some of your aggression out.

He looked up, startled, and barked out something that might have been a laugh. Kendra did a double take. Glen again didn’t react other than to say, “Laughing isn’t a bad thing.”

“Private joke.” Kyle sat up a little straighter and finished his water. “Kendra, can I have more, please?”

“Sure.” Looking confused, she took the glass to the fridge’s water dispenser.

“I can’t promise I won’t wallow again,” Kyle said.

“I know.” I rested my hand on the island, and he took it. “We’ll get through it. But remember why you did this. Not why the wolf did. Why Kyle Slidell, the human side, took someone’s life to save his own. And mine.”

He nodded. “I had no choice.”

“That’s right.” I squeezed his hand. “I love you, Kyle. I would say I forgive you, but you didn’t do anything you need forgiveness for. Do you understand?”

“I love you too.” He let out a long breath. “I should lie down. I didn’t think I’d be able to, but now I feel like I’m going to fall over. I don’t want to be all the way upstairs, though.”

“We’ll set you up in one of the guest rooms down here if you want.” I glanced at Kendra, who nodded.

“Yeah, that would be good.” Kyle broke off a piece of the muffin and swallowed it without chewing. “I need to stay down here. This isn’t over. You think it is. You think you’ve taken care of him and come up with a plausible story for what happened. It’ll work for the human world. Not for ours. There are consequences.”

He spoke the way he did whenever random information came to him. As if he were reciting something he’d known forever while having no idea where it came from.

I hated hearing him speak that way, because it meant he was right. Somehow, someone would know what he’d done to Andrew, and they wouldn’t let it rest. And it made perfect sense. Whoever had been controlling Andrew would have felt the bond break. And whatever that wolf knew, the Anax knew.

“Go rest for now,” I said. “We’ll worry about what happens next when it happens. I won’t leave you if I can help it. I won’t let them hurt you.”

He gave me a faint smile. “You’re always saving my ass. The same way you did when I took off after Mikey that time. I don’t think you can get me out of this one, Tobias. Zane didn’t want to punish me for shifting in front of humans, so it didn’t take much for him to decide to let me live. The A—this guy wants us both dead, and he’s going to take the opportunity.”

“Shut up and go rest.” I spoke more roughly than I intended this time. I refused to accept the possibility of my mate dying for what he’d done. If he’d killed Andrew in cold blood, I would have taken Kyle’s life myself, but he hadn’t.

The Anax wouldn’t see it that way. He would find some reason to believe, and make others believe, Kyle had killed for the sake of killing. Kyle was right. The Anax wanted me dead, and the easiest way to do that would be to murder Kyle.

Teaser Thursday- Try the Tofu

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Finally, after some unknown amount of time, the visualization did its job. My pack was safe. I could handle whatever might come to us. Kyle and Jon would accompany me to Pennsylvania, though Jon and his mate Mariko wouldn’t be happy about it. Kyle wasn’t the cause of our problems, and because he existed, I might be able to solve them. He gave me focus and strength and sanity, and I was fortunate to have him in my life.

I opened my eyes and breathed deeply. The smell of spaghetti sauce filled my nose. However long I’d sat there, it had been long enough for Kyle to finish supper.

As I recognized that, Kyle walked into the room carrying two plates, with a bottle of grated cheese balanced carefully on top of one of them. “I didn’t want to move your stuff on the table, so I figured we could eat in here.” He handed one of the plates, the one with the cheese, to me. “Better?”

“Yeah. Thanks for giving me some space.” I sprinkled some cheese on my spaghetti as he sat beside me. “Vegan cheese?”

“No, so I’m not having any. Vegan-friendly sauce, though.” He left a little gap between us and gave me an uncertain look. “Have things really gotten that bad since I moved here? I thought I made your life better.”

“Don’t get all insecure on me.” That was the last thing I needed. He was strong, at least as strong as I was. If he started questioning things, I wasn’t certain how I would cope with it. “More bad things have happened since you moved here than before, but you do make my life better, Kyle. I wouldn’t have been able to cope with everything if you weren’t here. You know that.”

“I’m not being insecure. Those were some pretty loud, pissed-off thoughts you sent my way before you meditated.” He shrugged. “I’m sorry if I’ve had anything to do with things getting worse. But I’m glad to be here for you.”

“You don’t have anything to be sorry for.” I sighed. Sometimes I wished our mate bond wasn’t so strong. On the other hand, it could work to my benefit. I sent my love and desire for him along it, hoping it would counter what he’d picked up earlier.

He smiled. “You don’t have to do that, Tobias. I know how you feel about me. I also know how you feel about your pack and our safety, and I compromise that sometimes. Which is another reason it’s good that Zane told you to bring me to Pennsylvania. If there’s trouble, it’ll follow me there and the rest of the pack will be safe.”

“No, that isn’t why.” This conversation was not going the way I’d hoped. No matter what questions had been in my mind, I didn’t want Kyle to question whether he’d brought problems to my pack or me. “You’re going with me so if there’s trouble, I’ll know you’re safe, idiot. I care about my pack, and I would die to protect them if I had to. I love you, and I would kill for you.”

“I hope it never comes to that,” he said quietly. “Killing people sucks.”

“Yeah.” He knew that all too well. Art had died at Kyle’s hand—well, teeth—and Kyle hadn’t fully recovered from that. It had been his first shift since awakening from his initial change, and it had been his first kill. He hadn’t even hunted yet at that point, because the full moon had still been a couple of weeks away.

That hadn’t stopped him from being ready to kill Saul the last time we’d gone to Pennsylvania. Or from challenging Polly and threatening to kill Roderic when they’d kidnapped Mikey Damone. My Kyle had a bloodthirsty streak in him, in complete opposition to his usual pacifistic, vegan tendencies, and it scared him.

It scared me sometimes too. I knew how it felt to want to kill and to let that desire have control.

Teaser Thursday- Veggie Burgers to Go

This was a scene I wrote for the novel Veggie Burgers to Go before I wrote the actual novel.

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A really random idea came to me, and I blurted it out before I could stop myself. “What if we had a child?”

“Werewolves have some magic, but not that much,” he said in a teasing tone.

I swatted his leg. “I’m serious. We could adopt, maybe. Or even have a surrogate mother.” One of my former lover Jerry’s friends had done that with his partner. They’d become the parents of a baby girl carried by one of the partner’s cousins.

“Kyle.” Tobias took my hand and brought it to his cheek. “I love you, and if we had children it would be wonderful. But you may have noticed that there are no children in the pack?”

“Yeah.” The fact hadn’t really registered on me until now. In our pack, we had only the eleven adults. I wasn’t very familiar with any other packs, but I didn’t recall seeing any kids hanging around during the times I’d visited City Pack territory.

“Female shifters can’t bear children.” Tobias lay beside me, still holding my hand against his face. “They can become pregnant. If anything, I think shifters are more fertile than regular humans. But the fetus can’t survive the shifting.” He paused and swallowed hard. “Except once, that I know of. One of the women in my first pack became pregnant and managed to carry the child almost to term.”

He shuddered, which gave me a pretty big clue that things hadn’t been quite right with that baby. “What happened?”

“The baby—it looked like it had been crushed. I don’t know how else to describe it.” He closed his eyes, then shook his head and opened them again. “Everything was shaped wrong. It couldn’t even suck, because its mouth wasn’t formed correctly. The doctors told Sheila and her mate that even if the baby survived, it would never have any kind of life. For a few days, they kept it on IV feedings, then Sheila and her mate decided to end the feedings. They didn’t want their child to suffer. It died the day the IV came out.”

I didn’t even want to think about what the child might have looked like. The revulsion on Tobias’s face was enough for me. The way he’d told his story irked me, though. “Was the baby a boy or girl?”

“Boy. Why?”

“You kept saying ‘it.’ Whatever the child looked like, and whether he survived or not, he was still a living being.” I didn’t know why Tobias’s use of “it” bothered me so much. Referring to a baby with a pronoun generally reserved for things just seemed wrong.

“You’re right,” he said quietly. “He. They named him Joshua. Joshua only lived four days. He was born four weeks early. That’s the only case I know where a shifter’s baby has survived long enough to be born at all. Usually pregnant females miscarry during or immediately after their first shift.”

“That’s awful.” It explained why there didn’t seem to be any children among the packs. I could only imagine how hard it was for the women to know they would never have children. “I didn’t mean we should use a werewolf as a surrogate. I meant a human woman.”

“You don’t understand.” He looked into my eyes, and his brown eyes were wet. “There are no shifter babies. Males have impregnated human females before, and the babies have lived and grown up. They’re always human. I don’t know why. I guess whatever causes us to be shifters isn’t carried in the genes.”

“We could raise a human child,” I argued.

He shook his head. “It wouldn’t be safe, Kyle. Remember what I told you when we first got together?”

I remembered all too well. He’d tried to talk me out of becoming his lover because other packs might see it as a sign of weakness on his part, and because they might harm me to get to him.

The same thing they might do if we had a child.

“We could keep him or her safe somehow. Have guards or something.” I had no idea why it had suddenly become so important to me to have a child with Tobias, but something inside me wanted it so desperately I was almost in tears.

“And what if one of the pack accidentally attacked him or her in shifted form?” Tobias said. “God, Kyle, what if you or I did? There’s no way to keep a child safe among a pack of werewolves. The males who have children either leave the pack to stay with the children’s mothers, or leave the mothers to stay with the pack. The kids don’t live with the pack. Ever.”

I pulled my hand free of his and turned away from him. Kids had never been high on my priority list. I’d even laughed at Jerry’s friends when they’d had their daughter. I tolerated children, but I hadn’t been a big fan of them.

Now, after spending the day playing with my nieces and nephew, I wanted a child. I wanted to build a family with the man I loved. The impulse made no sense to me at all, but I desperately wanted it.

And it would never happen.

Teaser Thursday- The Pink, It Burns

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While the morning crowd slowly thinned, Dyer drank his latte and let his mind go blank. After a while, Myles came over again and sat down on the other side of the table. “Hanging in there?”

“Yeah, not that I have much choice.” Dyer shrugged. “Not what I expected when I walked in here today, that’s for sure. What’s with all the balloons, anyway? That’s what started the whole thing. The little girl hit me with a balloon.”

“It’s Valentine’s Day.” Myles raised an eyebrow. “Did you miss the memo? All pink and hearts and flowers and stuff? You must have noticed.”

“I hate Valentine’s Day.” Dyer traced the lid of his cup with one finger. “Never have liked it, so I usually try to ignore it. I spaced on today’s date. That explains all the pink.”

“Yeah. The pink, it burns.” Myles grinned. “Not my favorite holiday either, especially this year.”

“What makes this year different?” Dyer leaned his elbows on the table and studied Myles.

He’d seen the guy every morning for months. At first, Myles’s multicolored shaggy hair and pierced ears, eyebrow, and lips had turned Dyer off completely, but the look had grown on him. And Myles had gorgeous eyes. A mix of green and brown, with thick lashes half the women Dyer knew probably would have killed for.

Kind eyes which crinkled at the corners now as Myles said, “After what you’ve dealt with this morning, you want to hear me whine?”

“I can use the distraction.” Dyer shrugged again. “I have to go to the police station later and do a report or something. Right now, I don’t even want to think about what happened. My brain’s only going to get stuck on all the bad things. Ella’s safe now, but that isn’t going to stop the worst case reel from rolling in my head.”

“Ella was the little girl?” Myles asked.

Dyer nodded. “I heard her father say her name. Had they ever been in here before?”

“Not that I’ve seen. I think I would have remembered that guy. He had creepy eyes.” Myles smirked. “Yeah, that’s a really detailed description. You did something really awesome, you know?”

“You helped,” Dyer said. “You and your fake incompetence. Anyway, please tell me why Valentine’s Day sucks for you this year, because I really need something else to think about.”

Myles hesitated then nodded. “Okay, so my whine for the day. I was in a relationship for four years. A guy I met my junior year of college. He was a grad student a few years older, and I thought he was the most awesome person I’d ever met. Great conversation, great sex.”

“Okay.” Dyer didn’t know what else to say.

“Sorry,” Myles said. “Should I shut up?”

“No, go on.” Every weekday for months he’d said hello to Myles and made small talk, and he still knew nothing about the guy. After the way Myles had backed him up that morning, keeping Ella’s father and the little girl in the store, Dyer owed him at least a little time.

“So we were together for four years.” Myles leaned back in his chair and crossed his legs. “He worked at the university. Still a grad student, but he was a TA and had a work study job or something. I don’t even know.”

“He didn’t tell you?” In spite of himself, Dyer was getting interested in Myles’s story.

Myles shook his head. “I was trying to find work. You graduate with a degree in history, oddly enough there aren’t a whole lot of jobs. Proving my parents right, which is why I work here. Anyway, so come to find out my so-called lover was banging a couple of students on the side. I found out about it when I went to surprise him at work on our anniversary back in October.”

“Oh, damn, that must have sucked.”

“Yeah, sucking is exactly what they were doing.” Myles snorted. “So instant break-up, followed by me moving in with my cousin and her boyfriend because they were the only family members still speaking to me after I came out.”

“Not a fun time.” Again Dyer wasn’t completely sure how to respond.

He didn’t mind, though. Listening to Myles’s “whining” was having the desired effect of pushing away the stress and fear of that morning’s events.

Teaser Thursday- When I See You Smile

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Kieran paced back and forth from the door to the window in his top-floor hotel suite. He should have crashed the moment they’d walked into the room. Actually, he should have ripped off their clothes, shoved Deacon onto the bed, cuffed him, and fucked the guy stupid.

He would have done exactly that if the meeting had gone the way it was supposed to. When a record exec showed up, they were supposed to tell Kieran how amazing he was and remind him he needed to start work on another album. Even though his current one had released only six months earlier and he’d been touring almost nonstop ever since, they wanted more. It bugged the shit out of him. It was time for a break, not another visit to the studio.

Thomas Garrison, smart man that he was, hadn’t argued a bit when Kieran said he was due a break. Not that it would be a complete break anyway. He had interviews scheduled and was already working on some new material for the next album. But at least he would have a few weeks away from studios and tour venues to recuperate from the past six months of insanity.

Kieran hadn’t had a problem with being told he should start on a new album. His problem was with being told what the album should include.

“I don’t do fucking covers,” he said to the floor lamp he was walking past. “I’m Kieran goddamn West. I write my own songs. I’ve been writing my own motherfucking songs since I was in goddamn elementary school. And this asswipe thinks I’m going to do a cover?”

“If you keep ranting, is it going to change anything?” Reclined on the king-sized bed, Deke yawned and stretched, showing his abs to full advantage. He was completely nude. It didn’t distract Kieran a bit, despite how eager he’d been to plunge into Deke’s sweet, tight ass only hours earlier. “It’s one song, Kieran. One. Everyone knows Kieran West writes his own songs, but this one means something to the company.”

“It means something to Thomas Garrison, the egotistical bastard. If he wants someone to sing a love song to some girl he crushed on in high school, he can damn well do it himself.” It wasn’t bad enough the exec had asked Kieran to do a cover song on his next album. The song had to be one from the 1980s, a decade Kieran barely remembered since he’d been born in 1980. Which made him older than most of his fans realized, and older than he wanted to admit, but barely old enough to recall the damn song.

The song had come out late in the decade, and Kieran did remember hearing it on the radio at friends’ houses. It wasn’t a country song, so Grandma hadn’t played it and Kieran hadn’t been a huge fan of it. “‘When I See You Smile,’” he muttered. “One of my buddies made a tape that just had that song over and over, trying to impress a girl he liked.”

“Did it work?” Deke asked.

“Hell, no. We were freaking fourth-graders. She couldn’t have cared less.” He groaned and went back to pacing, then stopped in front of the window, which he hadn’t bothered to pull the curtains over. “They want me to do a cover.”

“Yes, they do, and saying it over and over isn’t going to change it.” Deke rolled off the bed and went to Kieran. If Deke realized half the city might be able to see his naked cock and balls, he apparently didn’t care. He rested his hand on Kieran’s shoulder, and almost instantly Kieran relaxed. Deke always had that effect on him. “It’s one song, Kieran. One song on an album that won’t even be out for another year, probably. You aren’t even ready to start recording, right?”

“Right.” He took a deep breath and turned to close the curtains. “Are you into exhibitionism or something?”

“Only for you, babe.” Deacon grinned. “Are you actually going to pay attention to the naked man in your hotel room now?”

“Fuck, yeah.” He ran his hand through his shoulder-length, choppy-layered hair, still sweaty from his time on stage. He hadn’t grabbed a shower yet, even thought that was usually the first thing he did when he reached his room. He’d been too pissed off about Garrison’s request. “I probably smell like shit.”

“You smell like sweat.” Deke nuzzled Kieran’s neck, and Kieran sighed and melted into the other man’s arms. Deke touched his tongue to Kieran’s skin. “Taste like it, too. It’s good. It’s you.”

Deke knew all the right spots to get him going, and he kept nuzzling and kissing them until Kieran was hard as a fucking rock. The damn cover song didn’t matter a bit now. He was here with his man, his hot, naked man, and he’d been neglecting him.

Teaser Thursday- Chance Met

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They walked away. Despite the cold, Crawford stood there watching them walk up the street alongside Burger King. He could have walked with them. Bremen Street was the next one, and though his apartment was further down the street, it still would have been a reasonable route for him to take. But he didn’t want to push his luck.

He’d already learned more about Trey than he’d expected. The guy was gay, given that Mikey had mentioned Trey having a boyfriend in the past. He knew about and accepted his son’s abilities but was cautious about letting others find out. It might have been solely because he was worried about the general public’s reaction, or there might have been another reason. The fear in Mikey’s eyes when he’d realized he’d given himself away implied the latter. If anyone had tried to hurt the boy because of something he couldn’t help, Crawford would—

Do absolutely nothing, because whatever had happened was probably over. And he couldn’t be the knight in psychic armor for the little boy, anyway. It was Trey’s responsibility to protect his son. Crawford would help as much as the pair would allow, but it wasn’t up to him to do it all.

He shivered. Thinking about Trey and Mikey had distracted him from the cold temporarily, but now the wind cut through his jacket. He was an idiot for just standing here. It was time to go home. To his empty apartment, where he would spend the rest of the evening watching TV and surfing online until he was tired enough to go to bed. Yeah, my life is fascinating.

He’d gone through the same routine for years now, with occasional breaks to assist Joel with evening workshops and seminars and to spend time with the few people he’d allowed into his life. Something which hadn’t happened for far too long.

He headed home, walking fast to try to warm up. His life had become one enormous rut, consisting of work and distractions and very few people. He kept telling himself he needed to change that, but he’d become so stuck he hadn’t even tried.

Now things were improving. All because a little boy had wanted hot chocolate.

He stuck his hand in his pocket to touch his phone. He had Trey’s number. Trey wanted to see him again. The mention of a dinner without Mikey had sounded a whole lot like Trey was asking him on a date, something Crawford had no objection to at all.

He would take things slowly. It wouldn’t help anything if he became too excited about the idea of having a friend. Or a boyfriend, as the case may be. He wasn’t quite sure what Trey had in mind, and it would make sense to let Trey have the lead on how things developed between them. Trey had his son to consider, and he probably wouldn’t want to get into anything too fast. But if he was able to spend any time with the other man at all, Crawford would be happy.

2015 In Review

This week, I’m going over some of the things that happened and changed in my life in 2015. Next year, I’ll talk about my hopes and goals for 2016.

In the fall of 2014, something happened in my personal life that led to me being unable to write erotic romance. I won’t go into detail here; it’s something I’d prefer not to talk about right now, and I think I’ve blogged about it before anyway.

In early 2015, I tried to write a male/male romance. I failed. I couldn’t get the characters to fall in love with each other given the circumstances in the story, and given the circumstances going on in my own brain, I couldn’t get them to have sex, either. It became a suspense novel with romantic elements, Dawn Over Dayfield, which will be released in March 2016.

Dawn Over Dayfield’s existence owes a lot to someone who was pretty important to me during the first 7 months or so of 2015. He was a huge part of my overall support system, was very supportive and encouraging about my writing, and with Dayfield in particular, he helped me brainstorm the plot, helped me create the town (which is fictional, but is located in the part of Massachusetts where he grew up), and did the historical and geographical research I needed. Unfortunately, in August that person ceased to be part of my life, which is sad for a number of reasons, not least of which is that some really exciting things have already happened for Dayfield and I can’t share them with him. That person exiting my life also impacted my writing, though this time more on the romance side than the erotic.

In June 2015, I tried to write another male/male romance. This time, I barely managed to get 10 pages in before I ran into some pretty severe mental health issues. I chose at that point to put romance writing in general on indefinite hold.

In 2014 and 2015, a number of my books were taken out of print. Six of my nine Ellora’s Cave titles were pulled at my request due to poor sales. Several of my MLR Press and Passion in Print Press books were pulled, I think in late 2014. (Sorry. Fibromyalgia…I have a brain like a steel sieve and would have to look things up to be sure of dates.) As of now, I no longer have any books available from Pink Petal Books/Jupiter Gardens Press. All told, I think my number of existing titles was cut in half in 2015.

My last erotic romance title, a heterosexual contemporary novel, was released in March. Since then, nothing has been released under Karenna Colcroft’s name. I’ve been working on promoting my books that are still out there, and on making plans for the upcoming year, as well as focusing a lot more time and energy on writing and promoting my young adult fiction under the Jo Ramsey pen name.

It’s hard to predict where my career will go from here, but I do have some thoughts and things I want to try for 2016. I’ll share those with you next week.

Teaser Thursday- Tempeh for Two

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“Tobias,” Kyle said softly. “I can hear your mind racing. Please tell me what’s going on.”

I took another breath and decided I might as well blurt it out. “I killed someone.”

Kyle gasped and tensed. For a second I was afraid he would pull away from me, but he didn’t. “Now?” he asked.

“Yeah.” I wished I’d kept my mouth shut, but it was too late now. “Someone was here. I don’t know exactly what woke me, but as soon as I was awake, I knew someone was in the house.”

“You kept me asleep.” His tone was perfectly bland, but it still sounded like an accusation.

It put me even more on the defensive. “Yeah, I did. I couldn’t risk anything happening to you. I didn’t know who was here or why, and if you’d woken up, you would have wanted to go with me.”

“Duh. I don’t want anything to happen to you, either.” He cuffed my shoulder. “Go on. I’m listening, and I promise I won’t interrupt again.”

“You didn’t interrupt this time.” I’d stopped talking because I couldn’t quite bring myself to admit what had really happened. “I went downstairs and sensed that whoever was here had gone outside. So I went out.”

I paused again. This time, Kyle didn’t speak.

“There was a wolf in the woods near the back door,” I said. “I don’t know who he was. No one I’ve met. He didn’t smell like any of the region’s packs.” I shuddered, and Kyle tightened his arm on me, still not speaking. I took a deep breath. “He smelled like sickness and death, and he had a compulsion on him I couldn’t break.”

“The Anax.” Kyle spoke the title like a curse. “He sent this wolf after you.”

“I think so. I can’t prove it.” I wouldn’t be able to prove anything. The Anax was more careful than that. “I tried to compel him to shift back to human, but I couldn’t break whatever had already been set on him. He attacked while I was still in human form, and I shifted. He wasn’t strong enough to kill me once I was wolf.”

“You wouldn’t have killed him if you could have helped it,” Kyle said. “You hate what you did. I feel it. But the only other thing you could have done was let him kill you.”

“He was sick,” I said. “I don’t know what he had. He can’t have been changed very long ago, or he would have fought off whatever the illness was. But it had gone too far, and he was dying and in pain.”

“If he’d been changed willingly, it might have killed off the disease,” Kyle said.

“Even if he hadn’t been willing, with enough time, his system probably would have fought it off,” I said. “But he was sent here almost immediately after his change. I don’t know how long he was unconscious, but it wasn’t long enough.”

“It takes time to recover from the first shift, but if the Anax was controlling him, he might have forced this guy to wake up before he was ready.” Kyle snuggled against me, and the full-body contact helped bring me down from the darkness spiraling inside me, even though he was still tense. “You did what you had to do, Tobias. No one blames you, except you.”

“I’m not blaming myself.” I was to an extent, and Kyle knew it. He wouldn’t have been able to miss the guilt.

More than myself, I blamed the Anax. I couldn’t know for certain that he’d been the one to send this wolf, but no one else would have gone to such lengths to try to kill me. And no one else had the power, as far as I knew, to lay a compulsion so strong I wouldn’t be able to break it.

Teaser Thursday- Try the Tofu

TrytheTofu_200 (2)

“Why are you being such an ass about this?” Kyle straightened up and walked over to the table. He leaned over me, but I stared at the computer monitor and pretended not to notice. “Tobias, I don’t want you there alone, okay? Last time scared the fuck out of me. I might have lost you. I’m not letting it happen again.”

“You think I want to risk you?” Now I looked up at him. My anger was too strong not to. “You think I didn’t almost lose it last time when I didn’t know how badly you were hurt and no one would frigging tell me anything?”

He took a step back and folded his arms. “You were shot. All I had to deal with was a psycho ex-alpha with a death wish. I should have killed him.”

“He’s dead now.” Saul had invaded my pack’s territory only two months earlier. He hadn’t lost his alpha powers when the rank had been stripped from him, and he could make people forget they’d seen him. He had stalked a young wolf from another pack who had been sent to me by the Anax, the ruler of all werewolves in the United States. My new wolf had killed Saul after he’d taken her from her apartment.

I was glad he’d died. He’d also turned two of my wolves against the pack, causing them to kidnap a six-year-old boy who had moved with his father into our territory. The father had been attacked and changed into one of us while trying to rescue his son. My two wolves were dead too, killed for revealing themselves to a human, and Kyle had almost faced death for the same reason. All because of Saul.

I hadn’t protected my pack well enough, and I refused to let my guard down again. That was why I wouldn’t allow Kyle to accompany me to Pennsylvania for the semi-annual regional alpha conference at the home of Zane Wolfskin, our region’s Arkhon, or regional leader. Losing my pack members hurt like hell and drove home the fact that I wasn’t really cut out to be an alpha, even though I’d run the Boston North Pack for over thirty years, since shortly before my eighteenth birthday.

Losing Kyle would have killed me.

“You’re right,” he said. “Saul’s dead. Melia’s dead. Art’s dead. Everybody’s dead, Tobias. For a change, we might be able to have a relaxing time together. Celebrate being with each other the way we didn’t get to do in September because of goddamn Saul.”

“I’m not declaring you as my mate again.” That had been one victory in September. I was the first male alpha in history, as far as anyone knew, to declare a male mate in front of the Arkhon and entire region. The other victory had been the recognition of Boston North Pack as its own entity. Until then, we’d officially been considered part of City Pack, though almost everyone had known the truth.

“I bet Justin’s bringing Tareth,” he muttered.

I shook my head. “Her doctor said she can travel, but Justin won’t allow it. He won’t risk her and the baby, especially after what happened in September.” The City Pack Alpha, who had been instated after Chal’s death, was even more protective of his human mate than I was of Kyle.

“So who—”

My phone rang, the generic ringtone mercifully cutting him off, and I grabbed it. It probably wasn’t pack business or anything important, but I needed a break from Kyle’s arguments. “Tobias Rogan.”

“Leave your mate at home.”

My heart sped up. I was already on a mild adrenaline rush from fighting with Kyle. This call amped it up. It was a threat. I didn’t need to hear any more than I had to determine that.

The question was who would threaten my mate? The voice was disguised somehow, though not by anything particularly advanced. It sounded like one of those microphones marketed to kids. But it was enough that I couldn’t even tell whether the speaker was male or female, let alone take a stab at identifying the voice.

“Who is this?” I demanded.

“Leave your mate at home,” the voice said again. “If you bring him, he won’t be going home.”

“Who the fuck is this?”

My voice cracked. The first sign I was losing it, and one I wished I’d kept a better handle on, but the voice was threatening Kyle. My mate. My life.