About today’s guest: Rebecca York
New York Times, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly best-selling and award-winning author, Rebecca York joins us today. Rebecca has written over 115 books. Her many awards include two Rita finalist books and two Career Achievement awards from Romantic Times: for Series Romantic Suspense and for Series Romantic Mystery. Her Peregrine Connection series also won a Lifetime Achievement Award for Romantic Suspense Series.
Today she gives us a peak at her novel, ETERNAL MOON.
What woman could possibly be a match for a guy who has the sexual pull, animal magnetism and power of a werewolf? I’ve confronted that problem over and over in my Moon series. Often I’ve given my heroines powers that few mortals possess. And in ETERNAL MOON, I’ve gone even farther. Renata Cordona is the reincarnation of an ancient goddess. She and her lover have met again and again down through the ages–only to be destroyed by a demon bent on conquering the world.
In her twenty-first century incarnation, Renata hooks up with werewolf, Jacob Marshall. And maybe this time a werewolf and a goddess can defeat the demon–if they can conquer the mistrust that springs up between them every time they come together.
Here’s the beginning of their story. In a traditional romance, the h/h “meet cute.” My werewolf heroes and their ladies usually “meet dangerously.”
Renata Cordona touched the Glock model twenty-eight concealed at the small of her back.
She might be waiting in an empty house for a man who could be a killer, but she wasn’t going to end up dead-like the three women who had been murdered in the past nine months.
“Come on,” she muttered, pulling out the contact page she’d printed and reading the guy’s name. “. . . Mr. Lanagan. Why are you late? Are you playing mind games with me?”
Once again, she looked out a front window of the converted farmhouse, but she saw no cars coming up the long driveway.
Kurt Lanagan had phoned Star Realty a few days ago, asking to see properties with several acres of land around them. That fit the MO of the murderer, so she was masquerading as a real estate agent, with the proviso that if she actually did end up selling anything, the money would go to the company’s owner, Dick Trainer.
Which was fine with her. She wasn’t doing this for money. She hadn’t gone into PI work for money. She could sit back and collect interest and dividend checks from her parents’ estate for the rest of her life and not have to worry about supporting herself.
But from her earliest years back in Costa Rica, she’d felt like she should try to make a difference. Whatever that meant, exactly.
So here she was, in an empty house, dressed in a baby blue pantsuit and open-toed high-heeled shoes, feeling like Andromeda chained to a rock, waiting for the sea monster to come and get her. She ran a nervous hand through her long hair, then flipped it back over her shoulder, unsure why her mind had leaped to that image. But it was a dark vision-and she needed the sunlight. Stepping out the front door into the spring afternoon, she looked up at the sunshine filtering through the leaves of the oaks and poplars that someone had planted here fifty years ago.
With narrowed eyes, she checked her watch again. Where was Lanagan? Was he one of those jerks who thought only his own time was valuable? Or was he lost?
Well, he had her cell phone number if he needed directions.
Striding down the driveway, she walked toward the detached garage. When she realized she was counting the steps, she stopped herself. It didn’t matter how many steps she had to take. The important point was that the garage was a little far from the house to be convenient, and she should have checked it out-since Mr. Lanagan could be a legitimate customer.
That thought made her firm her lips. She was focusing on the murder part of this assignment and forgetting that she also had to play a convincing real estate agent, who would obviously have paid attention to the selling points of the house and surrounding property.
Let’s see. She’d taken a good look at the kitchen. It had been updated-but maybe not recently enough to go with the $850K asking price.
She was almost to the garage when movement in the woods made her stop. With a jolt, she turned. Had she and the police totally misread the killer’s method of stalking his victims? Was he coming on foot to isolated locations where female agents were showing houses?
All that ran through her mind before she realized it wasn’t a man at all-but a dog. A Rottweiler, she guessed.
He looked large and dangerous, and her blood ran cold when she saw he wasn’t alone.
Behind him, five more dogs stepped out of the underbrush. They were all about his size. One looked like a Shepherd mix. Another was a Doberman. And the remaining two appeared to have at least half pit bull genes.
What they had in common was the menacing look in their eyes.
Did they belong to someone? Or were they a feral pack? Inspecting them more closely, she saw that half of them didn’t appear to be wearing collars-which weren’t reassuring.
Bent on getting out of their way, she took two quick steps to the side door of the garage-and twisted the knob. Unfortunately it was locked, and she remembered that the key was lying on the counter in the kitchen-along with the key to the house.
Good going, Renata!
The Rottweiler, who appeared to be the leader of the pack, started barking. The others followed suit.
Then, they broke off as quickly as they’d begun.
Somehow, that abrupt silence was more threatening than the previous noise.
The leader bared its teeth and snarled at her. The others did the same.
They were maybe sixty feet away, but she could clearly hear them growling.
Instinctively, she knew they were out for blood-her blood–and she was no match for them.
Her heart thumping inside her chest, she drew her gun. She’d never shot a dog, or any other animal, in her life. And the idea of doing it now made her sick, but that might be her only chance to get out of here alive.
Would a warning shot scare them away-or send them charging toward her?
Desperately, her mind scrambled for what she remembered about canines. You weren’t supposed to challenge a dangerous dog by looking him in the eye. And you weren’t supposed to show fear.
Should she try to run back to the house? Or should she walk?
Without turning around, she took a step back and then another, keeping her gaze slightly to the side of the pack. Still, she saw the leader raise his head, as the growling turned to a low rumble.
She knew in that terror-filled moment that they were going to charge her.
Just before the pack could attack, a larger dog came dashing out of the woods. As her gaze swung to him, she took in details in a split second. The pointed ears. The long, upturned tail. The dark gray fur along his back and flanks that gradually lightened as it reached his lower body and legs.
Was he a dog-or a wolf?
Her heart still pounding, she did a fast recalculation. A wolf in the Maryland woods? Was that possible?
Well, she’d heard of coyotes returning to this area. So why not a wolf?
Whatever he was, she saw how the others reacted to him.
Moments ago they’d looked ready to tear her to pieces. They were still agitated, but in a different way. Somehow the newcomer had changed the equation, taking over the position of alpha male in the pack-within seconds of his arrival.
He faced the others squarely, his chest forward, his teeth bared, his tail puffed and standing straight out, as he stepped between her and the feral animals–growling a warning.
In that moment she sensed that he had told the pack she was his property, and he would tear any dog apart who dared to get near her.
He was alone, and there were six of them, but all of the other dogs had changed their stance. Their tails and heads were down.
When the newcomer pressed forward, the others backed up.
He kept advancing, challenging all of them at once, and continuing with his calm aggression.
Then, everything changed. As if someone had flipped a switch, the former leader turned tail and ran, and the others followed his lead.
Her rescuer stood watching them disappear into the woods. His stance was still aggressive, but she saw a slight relaxation in his posture. Probably he was pretty sure that he’d chased them away, but he was waiting-just in case they came back. Long seconds ticked by. Then a minute. Then another. Finally he turned and gazed at her.
She caught her breath as she took in the handsome features-his light gray facial fur contrasting with his dark nose and intelligent blue eyes, rimmed with dark margins.
She waited for frozen moments, caught by the notion that he was going to speak to her. Of course, no words came out of his mouth, only a low growl that she took to mean, “Get back in the house while the getting’s good.”
“Yes,” she answered. Then added, “Thank you for chasing them away.”
He nodded as though he understood her, then growled again, this time more sharply.
“Okay.” She spun on her heel and dashed back down the driveway, running as fast as she could in the high heels.
When she reached the front porch, she turned and looked back, expecting to see him standing where she had left him, but he had silently vanished into the woods.
Stepping to the house, she closed the front door behind her, then leaned back against the barrier, breathing hard. Her narrow escape was sinking in, and the primitive part of her brain knew those dogs would have torn her apart if the big gray wolf hadn’t arrived.
Wolf. Yes, he had to be a wolf.
* * * * *
Werewolf Jacob Mashall breathed out a sigh. When he’d seen the dogs getting ready to attack Renata Cordona, his heart had stopped.
He’d faced them down. And he could have followed them. Instead he headed in the other direction-toward a spot about a hundred yards from the house, where he found what he’d scented when he first arrived. Raw meat, dumped on the ground. Meat that had attracted the animals.
What the hell was seven pounds of chuck steak doing out here on this property? It looked like someone had deliberately put it there to lure the dogs.
He turned and stared toward the house-and stopped short. The Latin beauty he’d saved was standing at the front window staring out. Looking for the dog pack? Or looking for the wolf that had saved her?
He took a quick step back, then another, fading into the woods. It wouldn’t do him any good to confront her now-not when he couldn’t talk to her.
He’d met her several times over the past few months. She was a real estate agent who had come to some of the meetings of the citizens group concerned about funding of essential country services in the face of the economic downturn.
He’d noticed her right away. There was something about her oval face, her dark eyes with their fringe of sooty lashes, her full lips, and that marvelous long, dark hair of hers that called to him in a way he couldn’t explain-except in the most basic terms of sexual attraction.
No, it was more than that. He kept fighting the uncanny feeling that he’d held her in his arms before. Mated with her before. Declared his undying love–although none of that could possibly be true, since they’d met only briefly
The fantasy had been alarming enough to keep him from asking her out, but as soon as he’d seen she was in trouble, he’d taken the risk of stepping between her and those dogs. Now he had to make sure she was all right.
Unaccountably restless and out for a run in wolf form, he’d passed a “For Sale” sign down at the entrance to the driveway. Not long after seeing the sign, he’d picked up the scent of the dogs. Then he’d felt the dangerous vibrations coming off of them.
If he’d had to articulate what he’d sensed, he wouldn’t have been able to put it in terms a human could understand, but he could have described it to the other Marshall men, his bothers and cousins who also carried the werewolf gene.
While he could have told them how he knew about the dogs and the danger they represented, he couldn’t have explained exactly what he had done to make them break off the attack on Renata. For him, it was more than a canine face-off.
In his childhood, he’d discovered he had the ability to communicate with animals in ways that his brothers and cousins did not possess. He relied on that special talent in his job, working with dogs at various pounds, shelters and training facilities around the area. And he’d used it in the past to talk dangerous animals out of attacking-one or two at a time. But he’d never tried to dominate a pack of six dogs before.
Thank God it had worked.
Now he wanted to know who the hell had put that meat there and if it had anything to do with Renata-specifically.
But he’d left his house as a wolf, and when he changed to human form, he’d be naked.
He could run home, of course, but she might not even be here when he got back, because his house was five miles away.
As he contemplated the problem, a solution leaped into his mind. A quarter mile from here, behind a rectangular cinder block house, he’d seen a clothesline with a wash flapping in the breeze. He retraced his steps, until he reached the spot, then waited for long moments, breathing in the scents that surrounded the house.
Human sweat and motor oil. Burnt rubbish and laundry detergent.
As far as he could tell, no one was outside. Still, when he broke through the cover of the woods, he approached with caution. He was able to snag an almost dry pair of sweatpants and a tee shirt off the line. After stashing them in the woods, he went back for the muddy sneakers sitting by the back door. But as he darted in to get the shoes, a guy with a shotgun came barreling out of the house.
Jacob could have leaped forward and knocked him down. But he hated the idea of adding insult and injury to theft, since the man was only defending his property from a marauding animal, at least from his point of view.
When he saw the gun, he turned tail and ran, glad that he’d had the foresight to drop the clothing back in the trees. Still, he heard an angry shout from the man, followed by a shotgun blast behind him. Thankfully, none of the pellets hit him.
Stopping to scoop up the clothing in his mouth, he hightailed it farther into the underbrush, praying that the homeowner didn’t think the laundry was worth chasing him. Because then they would have a fight on their hands.
When he thought he was safe, he stopped behind a tangle of honeysuckle, breathing hard and listening for sounds of pursuit. Finally sure he wasn’t being followed, he began to say the words of the ancient chant that transformed the men of his family from wolf to man-and back again. Of course, as a wolf, he couldn’t speak them aloud. But he said them in his head.
Taranis, Epona, Cerridwen.
Once he’d finished the phrase, he repeated it and went on to another.
Ga. Feart. Cleas. Duais. Aithriocht. Go gcumhdai is dtreorai na deithe thu.
The men of his family had passed those words down from father to son from generation to generation. His cousin, Ross, had told him they were Celtic in origin and had theorized that one of their ancestors had been a Druid priest who had asked the gods for special powers-and had gotten more than he had bargained for.
He’d spawned a race at odds with the rest of humankind. And he’d created werewolves who were loners-because each of them was an alpha male. Which made them head of their own packs.
Until Ross had changed the equation. He’d figured out how to get his brothers and his cousins to work together, although there was always going to be friction among the Marshalls.
Today Jacob was alone-the way he liked it. Once he had transformed, he pulled on the stolen pants, then the shirt and started back to the house, wishing that he’d also gotten the shoes. But that wasn’t going to stop him from speaking to Renata while the incident was fresh in her mind.
* * * * *
A flash of movement outside had Renata reaching for her Glock again. Gun in hand, she watched a man coming up the road. With a jolt of recognition, she saw that it was Jacob Marshall. She’d met him at a couple of Howard County citizens meetings. But he’d never done more than exchange a few words with her. Now he was striding toward the house like he owned it.
When he knocked at the door, she thought about pretending that no one was home. Then the knock came again, more insistent than before, and she thought he had probably spotted her through the window. It was strange that he was showing up here-and now. After hesitating for a moment, she slipped the gun out of its holster and into the shoulder bag she was carrying.
When she opened the door and stepped outside, a look she couldn’t read washed over his face.
“What?” she asked.
“Are you all right?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
He hesitated for a moment, as though he hadn’t thought through the reason he was standing here, facing her. Finally he said,
“I heard dogs barking. It sounded like someone might be in trouble.”
She didn’t remember a lot of noise. At any rate, it had happened almost twenty minutes ago.
“If you were worried about barking, why did it take you so long to get here?” she asked.
He looked back over his shoulder, as though the answer to the question lay in the woods.
When he spoke, it took her several moments to work her way through what he was saying.
“I . . . found some meat.”
He gestured behind him and to his right. “Over there in the woods. Someone had spread around a bunch of raw meat on the ground.”
“To lure the dogs here, I think.”
“How many were there?” he asked.
“Who knew you were going to be here alone?”
“There’s a record of it at the real estate office. And I’m meeting a client.”
He glanced over his shoulder, his gaze falling on her car-which was the only one parked near the house. “I guess he must be late.”
“What business is that of yours?” she asked, thinking that he had somehow put her on the defensive, and she needed to take control of the conversation. Then before he could answer that question, she noticed something quite odd.
“Where are your shoes?”
He looked down, and she could see his shoulders tense. “I was out for a run.”
She gave him a disbelieving stare.
* * * * *
“Yes, why are you barefoot?” a grating voice asked. The question wasn’t spoken by Renata-or anyone in the vicinity. It came from a man several miles from the scene. Or to be more accurate, someone who looked like a man. But he was much more-a being with powers far beyond those of mere humans, and one was the ability to view what was happening between Renata and Jacob Marshall without being there in person.
His name was Questabaze. At least, that was his demon name. Of course he didn’t go by anything so strange-sounding in the human world. Over the centuries, he’d worn many different identities. And the one he had now was perfectly designed to allow him to fit into the society where his quarry lived.
Renata’s world. Where the air didn’t burn your lungs when you took a breath and your bed was a soft mattress rather than a field of sharp rocks. He had fought for the honor and the privilege of being here. Fought his brothers-and won. And he would win so much more when the great dance of power finally came to an end.
As the couple confronted each other in this isolated location, Questabaze felt a flicker of anger course through him. Too bad the dogs hadn’t done their work. They’d been about to maul Renata. To rip her face to shreds.
But it hadn’t worked out that way. He’d waited with quivering anticipation for the attack. Instead that other animal had come trotting out of the woods and forced the pack to back off with their tails between their legs.
Questabaze wasn’t sure how the animal had done it. Not with the odds stacked against him. Or even why he’d come charging out of the woods to protect Renata.
But she’d run back to the house-safe and sound. Now she was talking to Jacob Marshall-of all people–when she shouldn’t be in condition to talk to anyone.
He’d seen their attraction for each other, and he’d decided he’d been wrong in the past. Jacob Marshall was her true mate. He had to be. They’d met-as destiny dictated. And it was up to Questabaze to make sure their relationship got totally fouled up-one way or the other.
Too bad they were alone together after her narrow escape.
Such a satisfying expletive for such a basic human act. Why should it offend people when it was one of the basic pleasures of this world?
The word was one of the many variations he’d learned over the centuries. In German it was ficken. In Norwegian fukka. In Spanish chingar. And perhaps the current English verb had been derived from the Irish bot. Still, no matter where it had come from, it made such a nasty guttural sound.
He said it again. Which only lowered his stress level a couple of notches. A satisfying sound wasn’t what he needed. He needed results.
Of course, there had been other men who had seemed to be candidates for the role of Renata’s true consort.
He’d had to watch as each of the men met her. After they’d gotten involved with her, he’d wiped them off the face of the earth, thinking that he’d accomplished his mission. Then, each time, he’d come to the conclusion that the relationship had been a false alarm. Too bad they’d had to die to prove him wrong.
And too bad his end run hadn’t worked just now. But even without the help of the dogs, he would win another round in the great game of power.
Always in the past, after his victory, the cycle had started over again, but he could feel the finish vibrating just out of reach.
“And I will have the final triumph,” he promised himself, because it was the only outcome he could allow. He had worked too hard. Dared too much. Yet even as he made the vow, something was still nagging at him.
How had Jacob Marshall known Renata was here? Had he followed her? Or was he checking up on her?
It wasn’t possible for Questabaze to observe Marshall on his own, the way he could sometimes do with Renata. She was his focus, although he couldn’t watch her every minute because he had to put in time maintaining his human persona.
When the scene in his mind began to waver, he realized he had lost his concentration. With another curse, he clawed to hang onto the vision.
He was a being of great cunning and great power. But there were limits to his potency. Despite his efforts, the image snapped off, and he was left staring at a blank wall. His anger flared, making a pile of leaves outside his window smolder.
With a flick of his hand, he shot them a blast of cold.
He rarely had trouble deciding what course of action to take, but now he hesitated.
Should he get into his car and drive over there? He certainly had an excuse for appearing. Or was that exactly the wrong thing to do? Would he just make Renata suspicious?
From ETERNAL MOON, by Ruth Glick, writing as Rebecca York.
Publication Date: April 2009
Copyright © 2009 by Ruth Glick. This edition published by arrangement with Berkley Books
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