Chapter 04 sneak preview of my current work-in-progress:
Luca – Book 1 of the Demon Born Series (paranormal romance).
Pre-edit version. May change before publication.
Thanks to the Easter holidays, this past week has been overrun with chocolate eggs. They’ve been my faithful snack buddies any time I needed a writing break (or even just a life break, lol). Anyway, they’re a fantastic Easter tradition, and one that I think I’ll continue into the rest of the year.
And to go along with your Easter chocolate eggs, here’s the fourth chapter of ‘Luca’.
Hard ground scraped his naked back. He opened his eyes a crack, and sharp light streamed in. He quickly closed them. His body ached like a ten-ton train had ploughed over it, and his chest was as tight as if an iron band wrapped it. One wrong move and—.
‘My love…’ The searching voice crawled through his head again, just a whisper this time. And on instinct, his flesh chilled colder than the stone he lay on.
‘Luca.’ The man’s clear voice cut hers and filled his mind.
He stirred, his claws already curling out at her call, and his teeth sharpening into a killer’s fangs.
‘Luca, I’m not letting you transform.’
He focused on the man’s voice in his head and willed his body to relax, to not hear her, and to feel for the daemon magic that was now flowing through him and somehow keeping him sane.
And with one final effort, he overpowered the wolf inside.
Her voice died away, and he pressed his head back against the cold hard stone.
‘Luca, still with me?’
“And I love you too, Chase,” he muttered. “Now get out of my head.” And he opened his eyes to the yellow light of the room.
He was stark naked on the dungeon floor, and the wound in his chest where the bullet had entered was now a half-healed raw pink against his tanned skin. More out of curiosity, he reached up and touched its angry-looking edge.
“The bullet fell out last night. But the rest will take another day to heal.” Dante’s nonchalant voice came from the far end of the grey dungeon.
Luca turned his head and dispassionately regarded the stoniest of his three daemon cousins. Dante was a dark horse, a daemon with no magic, an anomaly. But he was probably the only living creature who could have hidden in the shadows like he had last night without Luca’s lycan senses picking him up. And it didn’t help that Dante was an ace shot. “Damn bastard,” Luca muttered. “You had to use silver.”
Dante grinned, and his dark good looks lit up with this rare show of mirth. “I keep that bullet just for you. Shame you’re a lycan though. Any other werewolf and I could have had him laid out for a week, not just a day.”
Huh. As it was, he might still end up stuck in here for a week. Luca glanced at the newly welded prison bars that separated him from his cousins.
“Forget it,” Ash said, coming closer to the cell. “You’re staying in there until we’re sure you won’t turn again.” His amber eyes glowed with the fire inside him, and from the thickened look of the bars, it was safe to assume Ash had welded them with daemon fire so strong even Luca’s wolfman form wasn’t going to tear through them this time.
“He’s full daemon… for now,” Chase murmured from his seat astride a wooden chair. His voice sounded distant now it was no longer in Luca’s head, tired too. Chase leaned forward and wearily rested his chin on his folded arms across the chair’s back.
Luca levered up on his elbow and gave Chase a small nod of gratitude. From the look of his tousled blond hair and haggard green eyes, Chase must have been up all night and day keeping mental blocks in place to stop Luca from transforming.
Ash’s gaze narrowed on Luca. “I’m not convinced.”
With a shrug, Luca got to his feet. “It’s a simple lock.” He indicated the brass padlock hanging from the cell door. “I don’t need a wolf’s strength to bust out. Magic will do.” He willed his clothes to cover his naked body—t-shirt and jeans like the ones his cousins wore. A faint glow surrounded him, the same colours as the white top and blue denims he’d called, and he stood fully dressed. He regarded Ash. “But I’ll stay put. Just to keep you happy.”
Ash shook his head. “We didn’t come here to fight you, Luca. And for what it’s worth, we didn’t come here expecting to arrive just in time to stop you from ripping out someone’s guts either.”
Guilt had Luca clenching his teeth. Two humans had nearly died last night, even if they had been trespassing thieves. “They all right?”
“They’ll live,” Dante drawled. “Hanson took them to the town. Your pack’s guarding them until one of the Zikani elders turns up to collect them.”
“And I’m betting Hanson called you three here,” Luca said.
Chase nodded. “When you transformed and broke free last night.”
“Fuck if that wasn’t the fastest I’ve ever driven.” Ash scrubbed his hand through his wavy brown hair. He glared at Luca. “Why the hell didn’t you tell us what was going on?”
Tell them what? The anniversary of his parents’ death was only a quarter turn of the moon away, and the rose that symbolised the life his parents had given him had started dropping its petals—one by one, day by day. Soon there would be nothing left of it… or him. “There’s nothing you can do for me,” Luca said. “There’s nothing anyone can do.”
Chase straightened. “If we’d known the flower had started falling, we could have tried—.”
“Fifteen years of trying,” Luca bit out. “Yet I’m still cursed. Still trapped in this bloody house that’s my coffin.” He locked eyes with his cousin. “Come on, Chase. You can sense it. Exactly how long have I got?”
For a moment, Chase looked like he wouldn’t say, then… “Samhain,” he said quietly. “Nine more days. That’s what I picked up from the flower’s energy.”
Luca nodded. He’d guessed, but to have it put into exact numbers was both a kick in the gut and a relief. Samhain. The night his parents had died. He’d expected nothing less from the enchantress. Fifteen long years she’d suffered him to live, teasing him with the possibility of breaking her hold over him. Fifteen years of his daemon family trying every magic known under the sun to save him, but none had proven stronger than hers. And now, in nine days time, she’d have him, on the same night she’d killed his parents.
“She’s in your head more and more, isn’t she?” Chase asked. “She controls you, your wolf form, and half-wolf. You’re at her mercy.”
“Not always,” Luca said through clenched teeth.
“But last night wasn’t the first time she took you over,” Ash said. “Otherwise you wouldn’t have made Hanson lock you in here before you turned.”
Luca glowered. “I haven’t killed.”
“Yet,” Dante murmured from where he was leaning against the dungeon’s grey wall.
“And you came too bloody close to it yesterday,” Ash said.
“So I’m to rot in this cell until Samhain?” Luca asked. “Then what? You think you can sit here and watch Fairfall crumble with me in it and then live on to see a new day?”
“You’re not going to die,” Ash gritted. “We’ll find a way out of this. The three of us are staying until we do.”
“No.” He was stubborn in many ways, and one of those was in how much he loved his pack and family. When Fairfall house finally fell, he’d be the only one going down with it. “You’ll not stay. None of you. I won’t put you in danger.”
“Yeah? Well, with that hag in your head, I’d say you’re in no position to decide,” Ash said.
Luca smiled and stepped closer to the bars. He matched Ash in height and build, and if it came to a fight between them, physical or magical, he could more than hold his own. But he had another card to play. “Lord Ash, you forget where you stand,” he said. “This is still pack territory, and I’m still alpha. Daemon rules don’t apply here in werewolf country, only my rules do.”
Ash bristled. “You’re threatening to run us out of Fairfall?”
“If it keeps you safe, yes.”
“The hell we’ll run from danger,” Ash exploded. “Especially when it’s about family.”
“But in this case, we will leave,” Dante said.
Both Ash and Luca turned to him. He pushed away from the wall and sauntered over to the prison bars. “I’ve probably paid more attention over the years than Ash. But yes, you are alpha. And it’s the alpha’s right and honour to fight alone for his pack if he chooses.”
Luca nodded, not surprised that Dante had absorbed such subtle nuances about the werewolf clans.
“Bloody hell, Dante,” Ash said. “Not in this case he doesn’t.”
“Yes, in this case.” Chase stood and came to join his brothers outside the cell bars. “Dante’s right. It’s Luca’s call how he wants to finish it.” His green gaze searched Luca’s face. “Things are going to get rocky. We’ll have to strengthen the wards…”
The finality of it settled on him with Chase’s words. But Luca nodded. “Do it.”
Years ago, his house, its town, and the surrounding forest had been closed off to the outside world by impenetrable daemon wards. It was the only defence they’d discovered against the enchantress—enclose the evil so it didn’t spread beyond Fairfall. But it also meant Fairfall had been slowly forgotten by the human world outside. And now as Chase’s unsaid words implied, once the wards were strengthened, even his daemon cousins wouldn’t be returning.
“Hell,” Ash muttered with a shake of his head. But he melted the brass padlock with a touch as he turned away.
Luca flicked back the bolt, and opening the door, stepped out. He faced his cousins, the only blood family he had. “Goodbyes are damn awkward,” he said with a wry smile. “I guess I’ll either win or be seeing the three of you in the warrior lands.”
Chase caught him up in a rough hug. “Stay strong,” he said quietly.
And then it was Dante’s turn.
And finally Ash. He paused in front of Luca. “All the clobbering I’ve given you over the years better have taught you a thing or two about trouncing some evil supernatural bitch.”
Luca laughed. “Well, since it was me clobbering you every time, I don’t think I learned all that much.”
“Bloody knucklehead,” Ash muttered and pulled him into a fierce embrace. “You better make it.”
Luca hugged him back. The end stared him in the face, but family was the one thing worth fighting and living for. And he would fight. He would make it.
To be continued next week…