Wild Chapter One Sneak Peek!

Whew! I'm almost totally done with the edits, and the book is nearly ready for release. It will be live on April 30th, next Tuesday, for sure!

I'm going to include a look at chapter two in my mailing list email, going out this weekend (probably Sunday). Join here if you want to read it for free.

Here's a look at the first chapter. Enjoy!!!



The gunshot rang through the air behind Wild, brushing his mahogany fur. Too close! The stupid farmer was much too close!
He shook the excess feathers from his mouth and hoped they didn’t cling to his coat. At least humans didn’t have senses like a wolf. If he escaped into the forest, the man wouldn’t find him and kill him – he hoped.
The little wolf leapt over a fallen log and charged across the road, the black asphalt cold on his pads this early in the year. If the farmer didn’t want wolves feasting on his chickens, why did he leave them outside in an easily accessible cage? After the long and harsh winter, what did the humans expect him to eat?
Nothing. They wanted wolves like him to starve – his former pack wanted the same thing. They all wanted him to wither away and starve.
But he wouldn’t.
He’d live and prove them all wrong.
Maple leaves and pine needles crunched under his feet as Wild charged head first into the forest. There was no cover for him back in the valley, only bare fields with little sprouts of green rising from the earth. But that’s where the food was – the food that was easiest to catch, at least.
Big game, like deer and moose, needed a whole pack to take one down. And Wild wasn’t a whole pack – he was one measly omega all on his own. No way he could catch a deer, unless it was only a fawn. But that made the bucks angry, and an angry buck with sharp, stabbing antlers isn’t something the little wolf wanted on his tail. One of them might be worse than an angry farmer.
No. Wild needed to head up the mountain, back into the snowy darkness of pine, fir and cedar. Back to the places the bears and lynx and other animals hid for the cold months of the year. Plus, if the valley wolf pack caught him in their territory, they might rip him apart.
They might kill him.
At least his old pack only cast him out.
Not enough food to sustain a pathetic omega, they said. No need for something so weak in our proud pack. That was almost five years ago, and Wild had proven them wrong so far. He might be an omega, but he wasn’t weak or pathetic. He’d survived this long. He’d survive longer still.
Another blast shook the air around him.
As long as the angry farmer didn’t shoot him first.
The little omega dodged trees, and leapt over ferns and bare bushes, but the footsteps thundered behind him. Branches whipped past his snout and grabbed at his fur. Roots reached for his feet as if they wanted him to fall. How could the whole forest be against him?
Then an odor tickled his senses. Another wolf? But it wasn’t that big pack from the valley. They had a distinct odor about them that made Wild’s nose twitch. This was a different fragrance all together. Rich and musky and better than any other animal he’d ever smelled.
How come he never noticed another pack in this area before?
He perked his ears.
Slipping around a tree, he headed up a steep rise in the landscape. Yes! That meant he was close to the edge of the deep woods. Only a few humans lived that far up the mountain, and they usually kept to themselves.
The soil’s rich smell, sweet with new growth, excited his senses in the early morning air. No more gun shots. No more dumb farmers chasing him through the woods! He was free and alive! The best possible combination.
He skidded around a bush and stepped on something hard buried beneath the rotting leaves. A click rang through the air, and the trap closed on his leg. Pain erupted throughout his entire body – the sharp metal teeth digging into the thin flesh along his ankle and cracking the bone in half.
Wild yelped. His cry of agony echoing through the forest so loudly the mother bear probably heard him from her cave.
He couldn’t get caught now!
He couldn’t die now!
“Sounds like I got him,” the farmer mumbled to himself.
His footsteps crunched through the undergrowth. Closer and closer. Every step made the hackles on the little wolf’s neck rise, but the trap was pinned to the ground with a long metal rod. No matter how hard Wild yanked at it with his mouth, it wouldn’t come free.
Hands would be better in this situation. They gripped things with more dexterity than wolf teeth. But if he turned into his other form, the farmer would learn the truth. That was almost worse than any other outcome.
But not worse than being dead.
Wild yanked at his foot, but the pain shot through every nerve in his body – like fire traveled through his veins, and the whole world went dark for a moment.
Blinking the light back into his eyes, the little wolf shook his head.
No! He’d escape, or he’d die. And he didn’t want to die! Not yet! Not like this!
“Dirk, what the hell is going on out here?” another man asked suddenly. His rich, deep voice resonated all the way into Wild’s bones.
When did that human get here? The omega squinted through the trees, but they were too far off to see.
“Damn wolf got to my chickens again. Ate the last five, so I’m putting an end to it.”
His gun clicked, and Wild flinched at the sound.
One shot could kill him easily. He’d seen hunters bring down a great elk – an animal that would take five wolves – fall dead with just a little ball of metal.
He let out a low, soft whimper and sat as still as possible. Maybe they wouldn’t notice him in the dim morning light. The bushes and ferns might cover him from view. Might keep him safe if they couldn’t sniff him out.
No dogs. That was a good sign.
Then the hint of wolf musk caught his nose, even as his mind reeled for an escape route. Another wolf? Where? What would it do? Kill him and the farmer?
Crunch. Crunch.
Someone swept aside the underbrush and revealed Wild’s hiding place.
The little wolf stared at both men with wide, green eyes. One was a normal human – the other was anything but.
He stood at least a head taller than the farmer with the gun, and his broad shoulders were twice as wide. His smooth, handsome face looked like it was carved of pale stone, and he had a sharp, proud nose. Light blond hair stuck out of his cap, pulled low over his ears in the morning chill. Arctic blue eyes narrowed when they met Wild’s.  
But this wasn’t an ordinary man.
He was a wolf.
His odor sent a little charge of excitement right into the center of Wild’s pounding heart. The little omega’s skin prickled with strange electricity and his stomach ached – like he was hungry for something that wasn’t food.
Would this wolf want to kill him like all the others?
“This is a gray wolf, Dirk. You can’t kill it.”
The farmer snorted and popped two more rounds in his shotgun.
“No one’s going to miss a little nuisance like him. Are you going to stop me, Caleb?”
The huge wolf stepped in front of the man, shielding Wild from harm. “I was thinking about it. Are you going to shoot me to get to him?”
The man’s dark eyes flashed and his hand tightened on the gun. Then he raised it to the wolf’s broad chest. “You have any idea what kind of money that animal cost me? Now I’ve got to replace all my hens and two roosters. And you’re going to protect it?”
The wolf nodded. “Unless you put a hole in my chest. I might even stop you after that. Guess you’ll have to shoot me and find out.”
The forest hung silent around them for a tense moment. Wild heard each man’s heart thumping. The farmer’s beat an angry rhythm in the air, while the wolf’s was as calm as if he slept.
Finally, the man lowered his gun and made a loud, unpleasant sound through his nose. “You going to nurse that monster back to health? Hope the damn beast gives you rabies. You deserve it,” the man muttered and turned away.
His footsteps faded into the woods, and the new wolf – the farmer called him Caleb – turned to Wild and bent down.
“You’re all kinds of stupid, aren’t you, Whelp?” he said and pulled the long metal rod from the ground.
Wild whimpered as the man lifted him. The wolf was careful not to jog Wild’s leg, still caught in the trap, as carried the omega through the woods.
This big wolf wasn’t going to kill him. Wasn’t going to hurt him. Caleb saved him. Why?
“Good thing you didn’t shift in front of that bastard.”
The forest blinked in and out of focus. Wild rested his weary head on the wolf’s powerful shoulder. Why did this wolf rescue him? The thought tugged at his mind the entire way through the forest.
Finally, the trees broke and the man walked up to a little cabin tucked at the end of a long drive. Wild couldn't see the road, but the hint of humans and their cars tickled his nose enough to let him know it was close.
The porch creaked under the big man’s steps, and he opened the door.
The little wolf perked his ears. He hadn’t been inside a human dwelling in over five long years. The scent of meat and cooking filled the home, although an undercurrent of dust was a close second.
Without a word, the man set Wild in a bathtub. The bathroom light above the big wolf flickered.
“Now, it’s going to hurt when I take the trap off. You better not bite me. Got it, Whelp?”
The little wolf nodded and set his jaw. Could the pain be worse than when the trap closed on him in the first place?
With large, nimble fingers, the wolf grabbed both sides of the trap and pried it open. The teeth loosened their grip on Wild’s flesh with a sickening slurp. The little wolf let out a strangled cry, and the world narrowed to nothing but the sharp stab of pain in his snapped leg.
“Damn. Looks like it broke the bone. This’ll take some time to heal.”
His words sounded from very far away, and Wild blinked and lapped weakly at the freely flowing blood, dripping steadily into the tub.
How long would it take? What if a lion smelled him and thought he’d be tasty? He couldn’t escape a big cat with an injury like that.
“Hey,” the man said and pulled Wild’s face away from the wound. “That’s not going to help as much as you think. I’ll clean it up, but you’ll need a doctor for the break. It’ll heal faster than a human, but that doesn’t mean it’ll heal properly if we don’t set it. Want to shift and tell me who the hell you are?”
Wild didn’t. But the man’s wide, keen eyes didn’t look like they’d take no for an answer. Plus, if the wolf helped him this much, he might help him even if he knew the truth.
Shutting his eyes, the omega willed himself to remember what it was like to take a human form. The dulling of his senses. The feeling of fingers instead of paws. The lack of fur. He’d been a wolf for so long, it was difficult to remember what man flesh felt like now.
Slowly, his bones extended and grew. His body bending and breaking. The agony in his leg compounded with the change until he screamed and thrashed, yanking the shower curtain from the rod and pulling the thin clear plastic down on top of him.
“That was unnecessary,” the wolf groaned and leaned against the bathroom wall.
 Wild panted and shivered in the tub. “So- sorry. Long time no change.”
The man’s chilly blue eyes, the same color of glacial ice, narrowed. “I can tell. You really are a whelp. How old are you, boy? And where the hell is your pack?”
Wild rubbed his cheeks, the skin rough with stubble, and glanced down at his naked form. “I think I’m eighteen season cycles.”
Caleb raised an eyebrow. “Season cycles? Are you kidding me?”
The little wolf shook his head and tried to remember the human word for such things. “Years. Eighteen years old.”
“Just what I need, a whelp with a broken leg under my care. Look, I’m going to fill up the bath while I call a doctor friend of mine to fix your leg,” the wolf said and pulled the shower curtain from the tub. Then he wrapped a long piece of thick gauze around the wound to slow the bleeding.
When he turned the faucet, cold water sputtered forth like a waterfall. Wild pressed himself into the farthest edge and waited for it to warm up.
“You’ve taken a bath before, right?” the wolf asked, his lips pursed into a thin line.
The little wolf nodded. “Yes, but not in a long time.”
The man snorted. “Sit still. I’ll be back in a few minutes.”
The heat of the water soothed the ever-present ache in his leg, though it didn’t diminish completely. Closing his eyes, Wild listened to the wolf talk on the phone to the doctor. Was he speaking to another wolf or a human? The omega didn’t know which he’d prefer.
A few minutes later, Caleb walked back into the room and turned off the running water. “Were you just going to let the bathtub overflow?”
He’d taken off his hat so the pale blond hair fell over his forehead and brushed the tip of his ears. Wild had never seen hair that light before. His own was a plain brown – the color of pine bark and soil mixed together.
Heat rose to the little wolf’s cheeks, and he shook his head. “It hurts to lean forward. Why did you save me?”
The man looked him over once and sighed. “You sure are quick with the questions, Whelp. But I get to go first, considering.”
“Considering what?”
“That I’m the one who saved your ass.”
He was right, and Wild bit his tongue as Caleb knelt by the side of the tub and picked up a cloth. The man’s skin was almost as pale as his hair, and he was bigger than Gerald, the little wolf’s old pack alpha.
Was this wolf an alpha too?
“Are you the one riling up folks around here?” he asked as he rubbed a bar of soap over the cloth. The overwhelming clean scent made Wild sneeze before he could answer.
“I was just eating. The winter was long, and I’ve been hungry.”
The man’s eyes traveled down his chest, the thinly muscled expanse was tight and wiry with a light sprinkling of hair. His arms and legs were tightly muscled, even if he wasn’t as bulky as this huge wolf. Wild knew his ribs stuck out, but he wasn’t as weak and pathetic as his old pack claimed. He’d be dead by now if he were.
“So where did you come from? Idaho?”
Wild shook his head. “The Cascades. It took a long time to get over the desert, but I was living in the woods outside the city and around a few lakes, but the people saw me. I decided to come into the mountains on this side.”
Caleb’s mouth twitched, and his hands hovered over the little wolf’s body for a brief second before he swept the cloth over Wild’s flesh. “And how long ago was that?”
The omega didn’t answer right away. Something about the man’s touch shook any thought of the past from his mind. The delicate brush of flesh against flesh ignited his body – an unfamiliar ache awakening in his chest.
Caleb pushed him forward, moving his long hair out of the way, and scrubbed up and down Wild’s back slowly. “How long ago did you get here?”
The little wolf’s breath caught in his throat at the sensation, but he swallowed the lump and went on. “Last fall.”
“Funny I didn’t smell you until now. How the hell did you avoid the Eurasians?”
The little wolf squinted at the water. “The valley pack? I went around them to the north. Are they your pack?”
The cloth froze on Wild’s back, and the man took a deep breath. “No. And frankly that’s a bit of an insult.”
“Why? Where is your pack? I only smell you around here.”
The man lifted the omega’s arm gently and rubbed the cloth over it. “I don’t have one, Whelp. Where’s yours? You’re not a changeling.”
Changeling. Wild hadn’t heard that word in a very long time. He’d never met a lesser wolf either, but he knew what his pack thought of them, and it wasn’t flattering.
“What? No! Of course I’m not a second rate animal like that. No human can properly be a wolf, even if they’re turned into one of us.”
The man gritted his teeth, though his hands remained tender. “Is that so? Guess I’m not much of a wolf then. Wait, was that supposed to be an insult?”
Wild’s eyes widened. “You’re a changeling? But–”
“But what?”
The little wolf clamped his mouth shut and frowned at his hands. Of course he’d ruin the moment with the only wolf he’d met who didn’t want to be rid of him.
“I never met a changeling before. I guess that’s why you didn’t kill me, but I don’t need your pity!”
The wolf let out a heavy sigh through his nose and sat back on his heels. “Oh, so I saved you because I’m a weak changeling? Think I should’ve let Dirk shoot you full of holes and mount your hide on his wall? Is that what a proper wolf would’ve done?”
Wild squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. The world fell out of focus again – the ache in his leg pounding like the steady beat of a drum. “Don’t know. I can’t see right. . . .”
“Hey. Oh shit,” the wolf muttered as the world fell into darkness.

* * *

“Well?” a voice from far away asked.
“He should be fine, but I’ll have to wake him to set the break,” a new man said.
Wild’s head lolled to the side, and he tried to open his eyes but it felt as if sap glued them shut. But they were talking about him. He should have some say in what they were going to do.
Then, a sharp astringent odor assaulted his nose and the little wolf’s eyes shot open.
“Good. He’s awake,” the new man said.
Wild tried to scoot away, but his arms and legs didn’t want to obey his commands. “Who are you?” he gasped.
“This is Dr. Richards. He’s going to set your leg and put it in a splint. It’s going to hurt. Ready?”
The little wolf opened his mouth to speak, but the man’s small hands were already on him. A moment later, a sharp pain shot through every nerve in his body. Then something hard was placed around his leg, and the man wrapped it up so tight the ache dulled to an ever-present throb.
The wolf leaned over him, a calloused hand brushing the long hair from Wild’s forehead. “You’ll be fine. Doc said it was a simple fracture, but it should heal properly, given your unique abilities.”
Wild didn’t know what he was going to say, just that he wanted to say something. Thank you? Maybe that was it, although it didn’t really sound like him. He hadn’t thanked anyone in years.
“This’ll help with the pain,” the other man said, and something pricked Wild’s arm.
He tried to sniff the air – to catch the man’s scent – but before he got the chance he faded into a dreamy, painless sleep.


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