But recently, I've come to wonder if there's not another reason to have at least a rough draft of a few chapters of a sequel written when the first book finally comes out. It can be great promotion -- of course, it can also backfire on you. Hopefully, for me, it's working and will help drive the sales of Origins to the point that NRP will buy the next book in the series.
All of this is a round-about way of saying I've been posting a few snippets to Nocturnal Serenade, the sequel to Nocturnal Origins, over on my writing blog. You can find the first two here and here. I thought today, I'd post a third snippet both on my blog and here.
The following scene is not what comes next in Serenade. I thought I’d skip ahead some. This scene comes about 75 pages or so into the book. It will give a little of Mac’s family background and, hopefully, tease you some about what’s happening in the book. Yes, I’m evil and I love it. Hope you enjoy the snippet.
* * *
“All right, Mackenzie, don’t you think it’s time you told me what in the world is going on?”
They’d finally collected Ellen’s bags, after what had to be one of the longest delays in getting luggage from a jet to the terminal in recent memory, and had made their way to Pat’s sedan. Instead of answering her grandmother’s question right away, Mac had stowed Ellen’s luggage in the trunk, thinking hard as she did. Where to start? There was so much to tell her grandmother, none of which would be easy.
So she’d start with the easiest. She’d explain that they’d have to wait until morning to go to the hospital. The doctors wanted to keep Elizabeth sedated during the night so she could get some of the rest she needed so badly to begin her recovery. Ellen simply nodded, her eyes flitting from her granddaughter to Pat and back again.
Now, with Pat carefully navigating her way through the parking garage, Mac knew she couldn’t put off telling Ellen the rest of it. Especially not with her grandmother looking at her so closely. Still, she couldn’t quite find the words to begin.
“When did you start shifting?” Ellen’s voice carried a mixture of concern and, to Mac’s surprise, guilt. “And I assume you’re aware of the fact your partner’s a shifter as well.”
Well, trust her grandmother to cut right to the chase.
“It’s a long story, Gran, and I’ll tell you everything later. I promise. But the short version is this. Shortly after my birthday, I was attacked by one of the local lycans. He damn near killed me – Hell, they thought he had. Imagine my surprise when I woke up in the morgue. I about scared the poor attendant to death – Any way, the attack awakened my shifter abilities. I started shifting shortly after that, although I didn’t realize what was happening.”
Anger and resentment flared as she remembered how scared she’d been, how close she’d come to actually considering killing herself for being a monster.
Easy, Mac. It’s not her fault you didn’t know what might happen one day. You know that. Just as you know it’s something you need to talk to your mother about. So ease back on the anger.
“Fortunately” she continued, relieved none of the resentment showed in her voice, “my captain, who happens to be the local pride leader, did realize what was happening to me. He sent Pat and another member of the pride to watch me. Fortunately, all of them, especially Pat who helped me control one of my first shifts and then who took me somewhere secluded so she could teach me, helped me begin accepting what was happening.”
“Thank you.” Ellen reached over and lightly clasped Pat’s shoulder in appreciation. “And this lycan who attacked you?”
“It didn’t take long to realize he was responsible for a series of murders Mac and I were investigating. At first we didn’t know if he was a loner, because there hadn’t been any problem with the local lycans for years, or what. Then we realized he was a member of the local lycan pack and was doing his best to stir up trouble. Which, as I’m sure you realize, was the last thing any of us wanted,” Pat said.
“Wait!” Ellen leaned forward, reaching out with her left hand to turn Mac’s face to her. “That is why the Conclave convened here, without warning. You met that bastard in the Circle.”
It was more statement than question and all Mac could do was nod.
“I dealt with him, Gran, as I needed to.” That much was true. She had needed to deal with Wilcox herself, not only for what he’d done to her but for what he’d done to the others he’d stalked and killed. “The Circle gave me the only way I could make him pay for his crimes without arresting him, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I couldn’t risk him shifting while in custody.”
“Of course you couldn’t!” Ellen leaned back, suddenly looking her age as the implications sank in. “Mackenzie, I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have –“
“Gran, don’t.” Mac waited until she knew she had her grandmother’s undivided attention. Then she waited a moment longer as Pat paid the toll to get off of the airport grounds. “I won’t lie to you. I was angry and hurt and more than a little confused and scared about what was happening to me. Then, when I learned shifting ran in the family, that you and Granddad were shifters, I was more mad than anything else. I didn’t think we had any secrets between us, and, damn, this was a big ass secret.
“I’ve had to do a lot of thinking since then. I know it wasn’t your decision not to tell me. That’s something I’m going to have to discuss with Mom when she’s better. But I am glad you know now and that we can talk about it, and about the family aspect of it.”
“Mackenzie, there’s more to this than you’re telling me. What is it?”
Mac laughed softly, ruefully. She’d forgotten just how quickly Ellen could read through all the layers and realize she’d hadn’t been told everything.
“Unfortunately, Gran, there is.” She paused, chewing her lip as she thought. “I know you’re worried. But I’d appreciate it if you’d wait for an explanation until we get to my place.”
Leaning back, arms crossed, Ellen studied her granddaughter for a moment before nodding. The moment she did, Mac smiled and thanked her. It was going to be hard enough to tell her everything that had happened, especially when it came to the attack on Elizabeth. The last thing Mac wanted was to be confined in the car where she had to sit still, not pace and burn off at least some of her own anger and fear as she spoke.
Half an hour later, Mac and Pat carried Ellen’s luggage inside and upstairs to the bedroom she’d be using while in town. Ellen trailed behind them and Mac could almost feel her fighting against the urge to start asking questions again. She understood. If their roles had been reversed, she’d have been demanding answers long ago. But then, she’d never had her grandmother’s patience, something she knew she should try to cultivate but simply didn’t seem to be able to.
“All right, Gran.” Mac handed Ellen a glass of wine and sat across the kitchen table from her. They were alone for the moment. Pat had excused herself a few minutes earlier and had disappeared outside. Although she hadn’t said so, Mac knew she was checking the perimeter and talking with whomever King had sent from the pride to keep watch. “You said there’s more to what’s happened than I told you and you’re right. There’s a hell of a lot more. But let’s start at the beginning. How much do you know about what happened at the Conclave?”
And you’d better be ready to tell me how you know, since you weren’t anywhere near here at the time.
“I know that the Conclave was called by the head of the pride here because at least one of the local lycans was openly hunting and leaving his kills where they were being found. I’d heard that the lycan had also attacked a member of the pride. Cassandra called the Conclave when it became clear that the pack leader either wouldn’t or couldn’t control the lycan, this Wilcox I assume.” She waited until Mac nodded in confirmation. “Apparently, the pack turned Wilcox over to the Conclave for judgment rather than risk the Conclave disbanding the pack or ordering its extinction.”
“All true,” Mac confirmed. “The pack leader, Ferguson, had been aware of the trouble Wilcox was stirring up but hadn’t, apparently, realized how much trouble he was actually causing in the pack itself. When he did, instead of calling out Wilcox, he punished two weaker members and expelled them. All that seemed to do was send Wilcox over the edge. He’d already caused at least two deaths that we know of, as well as attacking me. His third kill was also here in the city and happened just before the Conclave arrived.”
“So, how did you wind up meeting him in the Circle?”
A hint of disapproval touched Ellen’s voice. Mac heard it but knew it wasn’t aimed at her. Or at least not totally. She had a feeling that when her grandmother finally met King and realized he was the local pride leader, her captain would get a lecture he’d not soon forget.
“When the Conclave passed the death sentence on Wilcox, he demanded his right to trial by battle. Pat and some of the others of the pride had already warned me that he had that option. So, when the Speaker, this Cassandra, asked Mike who would stand as the pride’s representative in the Circle, I said I would.”
“Gran, I didn’t have a choice. I had to do it. I had to for me, as well as for all the others he’d attacked. We still don’t know now many others he killed. Nor do we know if he managed to turn anyone. But we do know he can’t do any more harm and the pack now realizes we will not stand by and let them run wild. It’s hard enough keeping our existence a secret without one of them getting careless and revealing our existence through DNA or other forensic evidence.”
“I understand why you felt you needed to do it, Mackenzie. What I don’t understand is why your pride leader allowed it. You were too new as a shifter.”
“Gran, that’s you speaking as my grandmother. Besides, Mike knew better than to try to stop me. I had to do it and, as you can see, I managed quite well, thank you.”
“All right.” Now she smiled, and reached over to grasp Mac’s hand. “Don’t get me wrong, sweetheart. I’m very proud of you. Your grandfather would be as well, if he were here to see you.”
“I hope so, Gran.” She gave Ellen’s hand a quick squeeze and then leaned back, wondering how to say this next part. “But there is more you need to know.”
“Just say it, dear heart.”
“Gran, we haven’t caught the bastard who attacked Mom. But we do know one thing about him, or her.”
“I have a feeling I’m not going to like what you have to say.”
“You aren’t.” Mac lifted her wineglass and drained it. “Gran, she was knifed by a lycan. I don’t know if the bastard was trying to turn her and things got out of hand or what.”
Ellen looked at her in disbelief, the color draining from her face. Then, much as Mac had done just a moment before, she lifted her wineglass and drank it dry.
“I am. I got there within minutes of the attack happening and there was no mistaking the scent. Pat and Mike confirmed it.”
“Damn it!” Ellen shoved back her chair and got to her feet. Mac watched as she paced the length of the kitchen once and then twice before returning to the table.
“It gets worse, Gran. I don’t know if he infected her. Hell, even if he didn’t, I don’t know if she’ll react like I did and start shifting on her own.”
“Dear sweet Lord, Mac. This is going to be more than your mother can handle.”
“You’re right. We tried talking to her about it when she was old enough to start showing signs of shifting, not that she had. But she wouldn’t listen to us. When she finally realized just how serious we were, she decided to try to ignore it all. When she couldn’t do that any more, and when she realized she wasn’t going to be a shifter, she convinced herself that your grandfather and I had some sort of hideous disease that she wanted to avoid at all costs.” Ellen paused, gnawing her lower lip much as Mac did when thinking hard.
“So, when you were born and I tried talking to her again about the possibility of you being a shifter, she panicked. She watched your every move, scared you’d begin showing signs of having inherited the curse.
“She should have told you, Mac. I should have told you….”
“Gran, don’t.” Mac slid out of her chair and moved around the table to her side, holding her close. “It’s over. Now you can help me continue learning. More than that, you can help me look after Mom and help her deal with what’s happened.”
Ellen nodded and Mac relaxed slightly. They’d have to talk some more, a great deal more, but it could wait. One step at a time, and they’d already taken a huge one. Even better, they’d managed to do it without it devolving into an argument. Now if she could just figure out how to manage the same with her mother when Elizabeth was able to talk.