Chapter One Sneak Peek: Fox Hunt (Haven City Series #10)
I'm sorry I'm so late with this post, you guys! I was evacuated on Monday due to the fires in Northern CA, and only got home yesterday.
Basically, my week:
Here's a super late sneak peek at the first chapter of Fox Hunt!
Basically, my week:
Here's a super late sneak peek at the first chapter of Fox Hunt!
Suck off a random stranger or starve to death?
A decision Edward Wilder never thought he'd have to make.
But here he was, and it wasn't just him who would starve.
His stomach felt like it was going to cave in on itself. He hadn't eaten anything since the day before, and it hadn't been much. He had spent what little money he gathered on formula for Daisy because she needed to eat more than he did.
And this was for Daisy too.
He wiped his sweaty palms on his jeans and sucked in a deep breath of cool evening air. The only good thing about Haven was the summers, while muggy, weren't particularly hot. And it always cooled down at night. Especially near the river.
But he wasn't near the river now. That area wasn't as seedy as it used to be, and there was no way he'd make enough money from the junkies who hung around its fringes. He’d moved downtown where he saw the promise for a bigger payout.
Plus, one of the working girls told him about it. Some of the closet cases hung around looking for desperate homeless kids to use for a night of fun. It was easiest to find them on Craigslist, and that’s just what Edward had done.
Ha. He wasn't a kid anymore. He hadn't felt like a kid in a long time. But he looked the part. And he’d do anything to take care of Daisy. He had to. He was all she had and vice versa.
He couldn't think about that now.
His hands balled into fists, nails biting into his palms, and he glanced at the stroller where Daisy slept peacefully. He’d tucked her as securely as he could next to a pile of empty boxes in the alley, and he wasn't going to leave her side. However, it was hard to solicit sex with a baby on his hip. Who knew what kind of sick shit some of the freaks that hung around there might want to do with her?
At that thought, he almost grabbed the stroller and hurried away.
That healer, Ari Gold, said he could stay if Edward needed to. Him and Daisy.
It wasn't the charity that bothered him, but the chance they might take Daisy away. The healer hadn’t done anything yet, but he mentioned in passing some of his friends who might take care of her for a time. Edward scoffed at that. No one was going to take care of Daisy except him.
His sister. His responsibility.
Daisy wasn't going to end up in a hellhole foster home. Not if Edward could help it.
A shadow stalked to the mouth of the alley and stood, bathed in the bright white lights from Burnside Street. Ed couldn't see the man's face, but his suit was slick and too fucking hot for a summer night. Some white-collar asshole who couldn't just pick up a guy at a gay club. Oh no. He had to search Craigslist for someone who wouldn't tell. Someone he could pay.
At least, he’d better pay or Edward would gouge the fucker’s eyes out.
He gritted his teeth and waited for the man to step closer.
"You the kid?” The guy asked. They hadn’t exchanged names, so Edward dubbed him Dickhole. It seemed fitting from the expression on the guy’s face. He wasn’t particularly bad looking, more average than anything else. Short neatly cropped hair of an indistinct brown and dull, disinterested eyes.
But Edward didn't care about that. The only thing that mattered was this asshole wasn't shadow folk. Not a shifter or a mage or any other kind of magic user. That meant Edward had the upper hand.
Ed nodded stiffly and squared his shoulders. The man was taller than him by at least a head. Strong in the shoulders but dumpy in the middle.
"And you can't talk? What happened? Had too many cocks shoved down your throat at one time?” the guy said and laughed like it was actually funny.
Edward sneered at him and swallowed the lump in his throat. Like hell he'd ever tell someone like this asshole what happened to steal his voice. Like this guy would understand.
No one else ever did.
He shoved his hand into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. His fingers flew across the screen as he typed a message. It was his only means of communication beside a pen and pencil, but it took too long. This was easier.
"Let's get on with this. Where's the cash?" The robotic voice read for him.
The guy laughed again. "You think I'm gonna open my wallet for some trash whore in an alley?"
Edward glowered as he typed a new message. "If you don't I'm not gonna touch you, fucker.”
This time, the man didn’t laugh. His eyes narrowed, sizing Edward up.
Edward smirked, not enough to show off his fangs, but he knew what he looked like. He knew his eyes were an unearthly gold and the irises were just slightly slanted. Enough to put a human on edge—especially one that didn't know he was a fox shifter.
Maybe not as big or as strong as a wolf, bear, or tiger, but strong enough to take out some stupid businessman who sat in a cubicle all day looking at gay porn and hitting up Craigslist for someone desperate enough to suck his dick.
“What did we agree on? Fifty for a blow job?" Dickhole said and pulled a few bills out of his pocket.
Edward nodded and his fingers itched to grab the cash. It wouldn't last long—a couple of days at most—but it was something. That's all he cared about.
Dickhole sneered and unzipped his pants. Then yanked out his flaccid cock. "You better suck real good. You only get paid if I’m satisfied," he said and pulled Edward toward him. Shoved Ed’s head down.
Edward sunk to his knees, teeth gritted as the man's fingers wound through his hair and pulled. It was long enough for that. Mostly because he hadn't gotten a haircut in ages. Or done it himself. Living on the streets, scissors were low on the priority list.
Please, Daisy, don't cry, he silently begged his little sister and swallowed the bile that rose in his throat.
"Been waiting for this all day. Open up, little slut," Dickhole said and thrust his hips closer to Edward's mouth.
It's not like it was the first time he’d sucked someone off, but it's the first time he’d sucked someone off when he didn't particularly want to.
Scratch that. More like revolted by.
His lips inched open, and he tried to keep from wrinkling his nose at the smell of sweat that greeted him.
Sudden movement rustled in the alley next to them.
Edward’s heart lodged in his throat. He froze in place.
The guy wasn’t a shifter. Didn't have enhanced hearing or any other senses. Maybe he didn't notice.
Next, a broken ba-ba, like a lost lamb, came from the hidden stroller—the first broken cry of Daisy waking up.
He knew that cry. Dirty diaper. It'd been his life for the last five months, even before Daisy’s mother took off.
"What the hell? Is that a baby?" the asshole said and took a few steps back.
Edward growled in the back of his throat, though it came out as more of a raspy choke. It was one of the only sounds he could make since his vocal cords had been wrecked and never healed properly. Shifter or not, some things couldn't be fixed when it came to silver. Especially when he couldn't afford any magical medicine or advanced human surgery.
That was the least of his worries now, because the man shook his head and backed off. "I don't know what the hell is going on, but I'm not gonna get involved in your kidnapping scheme. Trying to get me arrested?” He turned and rushed toward the mouth of the alley.
Edward didn't have time to pull out his phone and type an explanation. No matter how fast he was, Dickhole was going to leave and take his money with him. Ed’s body sprang into action, claws sharpening, he leapt into the air and landed on the man's back. Brought him down with a surprised grunt.
Dickhole struggled to turn over, but Edward grabbed the back of his head and slammed it into the cement. The man’s struggling slowed, and he said something, voice thick and slurred, before he slipped into unconsciousness.
Heart throbbing, Edward ripped through the man's pockets. The cash had to be there somewhere. He needed to get away before someone found him. Especially with Daisy’s wobbly cry picking up in pitch with every passing second.
Hold on, little flower. Just a few more minutes and—
He pulled out the bills and the wallet. Shoved them into his pocket. Headed for the stroller. As his fingers closed around the handle, the overwhelming scent of silver flooded the air.
Hunters? In Haven? Again?
More importantly, were they after him?
Edward’s heart throbbed faster and his mind went into panic mode. He wasn’t about to find out. He shoved the stroller to the opposite end of the alley, legs pumping and heart beating against his ribs like a tribal drum, when something shifted in the shadows.
His nose caught the musk a second too late.
A fox and blood.
And with the breeze, it was downwind of him so he’d had no idea. Didn’t even hear a thing because he was too worried about the money and Daisy and . . .
Edward ground to a halt. Glad, for once, he couldn't make a sound. Though Daisy made enough for the both of them. Especially because the shadow turned out to be a man crouched over a body. Blood spattered the pale skin of this other fox's chest, and his hands were curled into partially shifted claws.
Edward stood frozen, Daisy’s wails ringing in his ears.
"This is a surprise," the fox said, his accent thick and unfamiliar.
Edward took a step back.
Whoever it was their heart had stopped.
The darkness kept the man’s coloring in shades of gray, with shining golden eyes, much like Edward’s own.
He hoped, distantly, that he was draped in as much darkness as well.
The only thing to do was run and hope this other fox didn't catch him.
Didn’t catch Daisy.
Edward turned, stroller pointed to the face of the alley where Dickhole still laid unconscious, and came face-to-face with a silver crossbow bolt, pointed at his nose.
"Hold it right there. One move and I'll shoot," a female hunter snarled.
He was trapped. Stuck between a murderous fox shifter and a pair of hunters. And the last time he met hunters it hadn’t ended well.
Far from it.
His throat felt like he’d swallowed a bucket of sand. Sweat beaded down his back, and the only thought repeating in his mind was Daisy.
He had to protect Daisy.
How was he supposed to get them both out of this alive?
He stood frozen, heart throbbing so hard it felt ready to choke him.
"It's not him," another hunter said from the mouth of the alley.
"How do you know? He hasn't said a damn thing."
“Well, for one, he has a crying baby with him. That sound like our assassin?" the other hunter said. Another woman, but she sounded younger.
"He's a master of disguise. A baby would be the perfect cover.”
Edward didn't move to pull his phone out and explain. He couldn’t have if he wanted to. His body wouldn’t obey his commands. His mouth tasted of blood, and the faces in front of him blurred to the dark sneers of the last hunters he’d come into contact with. He waited for the blow from behind. If the other fox clawed him in the back, then they’d know the truth.
But if he were dead, Daisy would be alone.
Edward shook his head, trying to clear the thick layer of fear and panic that draped across him, and pointed behind him. The faint hint of footsteps trotted away, and a sudden wail filled the air, joining Daisy’s cries.
A police siren.
The hunter in front of him lowered her crossbow. Her dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail. "Call Max. He’ll need to explain some things. And make sure this one doesn't run away."
Edward’s gut filled with lead. There was no reasoning with hunters. If he ran, they’d shoot. Maybe hit Daisy. At least the police wouldn’t kill them both in cold blood.
It took five minutes for two squad cars to pull into the entrance of the alley. The cops who climbed out exchanged wary glances at the baby crying in the stroller before they read Edward his rights and slapped him in cuffs. There was no way in hell he could explain when they relieved him of his phone.
If he struggled, he’d make it worse, but when the officer picked up Daisy, her eyes wide, and looked at Edward like he was some sort of monster he couldn't help it. He almost shifted right then and gave the entire world of shadow folk away. But the heavy scent of a wolf nearby caught his attention. Well, a wolf and those damn hunters.
The precinct was only a few blocks away, but when he got there, Daisy was nowhere to be seen. His fingers twitched in the cuffs, and once they put him in an interrogation room and shut the door, he paced, chewing on his nails, and silently cursed himself for being the worst big brother in the entire world.
What the hell was he thinking? The cops found the asshole’s wallet and the cash in Ed’s pants. They knew Edward robbed him. He was going to be thrown in jail. Daisy would end up in foster care—lost to him forever. And he couldn't make it right.
How could he ever make it right now?
He'd been trying so hard for so many months, but nothing he did was good enough. His disability meant he couldn’t get a normal job, especially since he didn’t even know sign language. And after Trish took off, he couldn't afford the rent at their dingy little apartment either.
He couldn't afford anything.
Now Daisy . . .
He pinched his eyes shut, willing himself not to give in to the stinging behind them. A strangled choke worked its way out of his throat, and he slumped against the wall and hugged himself.
When the detective finally stepped inside, Edward nearly charged him because it couldn't get much worse. Instead, he drew a trembling breath and stared.
The detective had purple eyes. That meant he was a magic user. A seer. They saw the future. Seemed like a lousy gift, but maybe he'd like to see the future for himself. See if everything turned out okay or not.
The way Edward’s luck went, he was guessing not.
"Edward Wilder, sit please. We don't want to cuff you again if we can help it," the detective said, giving him a wan smile. His silvery blonde hair was pulled into a low ponytail at the base of his neck, and it made Edward feel even more unkempt.
His shirt was filthy. His jeans more so, and the scruffy old sneakers he wore had a hole in the sole that got his toes wet in the rain.
Maybe if Edward did what they said things would go smoothly.
He slipped into the seat, fingers tapping erratically on the metal table.
"According to our records you’re eighteen, correct?"
The seer watched him for a moment. “This is a lot easier if you answer the questions verbally. A nod and a shake of the head can be confusing."
Edward glowered. He tapped his throat and opened his mouth. The only sound that came out was a choked growl.
That got the detective’s attention. His eyes widened ever so slightly and he fingered through the files on his desk. "Sorry. I don't seem to have a file indicating any injury. Was it reported or was it . . .” His voice trailed off.
Edward knew what he meant. Were you always like that?
And no, Edward wasn't, but that wasn't a story for this detective either. Not unless it would get him Daisy back. His fingers twitched, and he pointed at the detective’s pen and paper.
The door opened and another detective stepped inside—the alpha wolf Edward noticed in the alley with the rest of the cops. He’d glanced at Daisy and told the officer where to take her, though Edward hadn't heard the specifics.
Maybe if he could find out where she was, he could break out and get her back. Skip town. He might have to leave the state but at least they’d be safe. Together. That's all that really mattered.
"He can't talk,” said the seer, and gave the alpha a brighter smile than he had Edward himself.
The alpha nodded and leaned against the table. He pushed the pen and paper toward Edward, a warning in his eye. If Edward tried to use the pen as a weapon, the alpha would probably yank his arm off.
Edward snorted and scrawled a message.
Give me my phone.
The detectives shared a glance like they were reading each other's minds.
"You can't use the pen and paper to tell us what we need to know?” the seer asked.
Easier on my phone. Edward wrote and glared at them.
"If we bring the phone, we might have to bring some other evidence,” the alpha said. "Like Jim Wilson's wallet. He woke up after you left. Said some kid mugged him in the alley. You know anything about that?"
Edward's fingers shook. If he admitted to any wrongdoing, they’d throw him in jail. And it's not like they’d believe Edward. He didn't have anybody on his side—no one who could vouch for him or did he?
That sand scratched the back of his throat.
It was the only chance he had.
He wrote the name of the only person who could save him now.
Call Ari Gold.
The seer raised his eyebrows and the alpha frowned. "How do you know Ari?"
Good. They knew him. Edward figured since he was one of the only healers left in Haven City. He shook his head and wrote:
Baby is my sister. I take care of her. Ari knows.
"And Jim Wilson just happened to knock himself out in the alley and hand you his wallet before he passed out?" the seer asked, still smiling.
Edward wanted to punch the grin off his face, but he held back. Shook his head.
Won't talk until you call Ari.
With a sigh, the seer stood and left. Hopefully, he could get the healer on the phone and sort this out. Then Edward could find a way to get out of whatever they were charging him with. He hoped it wasn’t kidnapping. It's not like he asked Trish to abandon him and his sister. She just did.
With the seer gone, the alpha eased into his seat and crossed his arms over his broad chest. Probably trying to be intimidating. After what Edward had been through, dealing with an alpha wolf was nothing.
"You know I've seen Jim Wilson around. We had a few instances of kids with busted up faces and broken bones who claimed he had something to do with it. Though, they refused to press charges against him. Or tell us how they got involved."
The alpha’s eyes settled on Edward, and Edward nodded. Though he wasn't exactly certain what he was agreeing to. But if it got him off, he wasn't sure if he cared.
He asked me to give him blow job and I said no. Tried to force me and I hit him and took money. For Daisy.
It wasn't that much of a lie anyway.
The alpha read the message, but Edward couldn't tell if he believed it or not. His expression didn't change at all, it remained hard and stoic. Then he flipped through the files on his desk, and his eyes widened.
“Are you related to a Trish Wilder? Stepmother it looks like.”
Edward nodded and bit the inside of his mouth.
Of course. It would all come back to Trish. If they thought he was involved with that—
"Looks like somebody questioned you after she skipped town. You said you were going to stay with your grandmother. Didn't work out?"
Edward shrugged. Pointed at one of his previous messages: Won't talk until you call Ari.
The alpha stared at him for a long moment.
Edward stood under it as best he could. The man's dark eyes were like most other wolves, and unlike Edward's own golden ones. He managed not to fidget, though he knew his heart pounded, and he couldn’t help the nervous energy pulsing through him.
A wolf would sense that.
Hopefully, he’d think it rightfully had something to do with Daisy and not Edward being guilty of anything particularly heinous.
“You don't have any priors. And I'm not sure anything what's happened tonight has been your fault. But there's only one way we can help you, and that's if you help us first."
Edward wrote a new message in the middle of the page: Need Daisy. She's my family.
Then he met the alpha's eyes.
The man nodded slowly. “Good. Then I think we can work something out.”