Shift Teaser: Chapter 3

Shift

Wolves of Hunter’s Rock

Shelley Grayson

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

Lukas put his hand on the door to keep Chris from opening it. “Calm down.”

“Really? I’ll calm down when you’re on the other side of that door.”

“Chris,” Lukas said, his voice deep and steady. “Calm. Down.”

Chris took a deep breath and appeared to calm a little, but he stubbornly kept trying to open the door. “Did I just let a serial killer into my house? My whole family—”

“I’m not a serial killer.” But I may be here to stop one.

Lukas might have laughed another time, but Chris’ nearness made it difficult to find humor in this. Chris was growing genuinely alarmed. Lukas clenched his jaw at the icy pit that fear caused in his stomach.

“I don’t know who you are!” Chris threw his hands into the air. “Or how—how do you know my name? I don’t even know that much!”

“Yet you let me into your house. Deep down, you know you’re safe. Trust your instincts.”

“I’d trust them better on the porch.”

Lukas sighed. “Where’s your bedroom?”

What?” Chris took a step back. Lukas had to admit it wasn’t the best thing he could have said. It made Lukas think about pressing him against a mattress this time instead of the siding, take his time inhaling, tasting. They didn’t have time for that. Not yet.

“Or the living room, a den, I don’t care! We need to talk privately.”

“This is private,” Chris said, exasperated.

“Fine,” Lukas growled. “How do you know Brent Hollister?”

“Who?”

“Brent Hollister, your age, lived in Wilmington, Pennsylvania. Recently visited his uncle in Lorton, Arkansas.”

“I have no idea who that is.” Chris had backed up to the wall, between the coat rack and a table that held a small stack of mail.

“What about Jennifer Bray? Paleyville, Missouri. Your age.”

“Don’t know her either. Can I pick some names to ask you about, or do you get to have all the fun?”

Sarcastic little—

Lukas grabbed Chris’ shoulders. “Vance. Emery. Merrick. Any of those names in your family tree, ancestors on your mother’s side?” he asked through closed teeth.

“N-no. Wait a minute. Vance? Isn’t that the name you gave my dad, Lukas Vance? What, you think we’re related or something?”

“You’re sure none of these names ring a bell?”

“No,” Chris said slowly, as if he spoke to someone with comprehension problems. “And now that I’ve answered your questions, I get to ask one. Do you think we’re related? And why do you care? What—”

“That’s more than one question,” he ground out.

Do you think we’re related?” Chris blurted, his cheeks pinking up, probably something that happened all the time when he got agitated enough. Lukas liked it.

“No.”

“But then why—”

“Something like that. Not exactly. Just don’t worry about it.” He let go of Chris and took a step back. He had to take a step back to get a solid breath of air that didn’t smell so good it could make him forget why he’d come there in the first place.

“Don’t worry about it?” Chris pushed off the wall and advanced as he spoke, moving Lukas back without touching him, getting into his personal space. “You were watching me at the ice cream shop, then you show up on my porch, lie your way into my house, start asking questions about people I don’t know, shove me around, and then say don’t worry about it?”

As irritated as Lukas was at the whole situation, part of him wanted to smile. He’d been backed up almost to the front door. He had to hand it to Chris for standing up to him, even though it would make things easier if he didn’t.

“Are you crazy?” Chris asked, taking another step. This time, Lukas didn’t back up. Chris hadn’t expected that, obviously, because he bumped into Lukas, who didn’t so much as sway. He grabbed Chris’ arms and held him there, their faces temptingly close.

“I don’t know. Am I?” he growled, then he breathed deeply, satisfied that there was only the slightest tinge of fear left on Chris.

Headlights shone through the window and tracked across the wall of the next room where no lights were on. Chris froze, then relaxed when the car kept going down the road. Probably relieved it wasn’t his mother.

“I’m no threat to you.”

“We just went through this. You sure act like a threat.”

“If I were a threat, you’d already be dead.” The words were out before Lukas thought about what he was saying. It was a fact. And completely the wrong thing to say.

“Let go!” Chris struggled, but it wouldn’t have mattered. If Lukas had wanted to hold him there, he couldn’t have gotten away. He looked like he might be about to shout.

Lukas spun him by the shoulders, pulled Chris’ back tight against his chest, and clamped a hand over his mouth. His other armed pinned Chris to him at his waist.

Big mistake, Lukas. What were you thinking, what are you doing?

The heat radiating off Chris’ neck carried the scent straight up to Lukas’ nose. He flared his nostrils to inhale more. The skin below Chris’ ear was pale, rich and fragrant, and he wanted to press his tongue there for a taste.

Chris shouted something against his hand. Lukas straightened and tried to think.

“Chris, listen to me. That came out wrong. I’m not here to hurt any of you, and you know that, deep down, or you’d be more afraid for yourself.”

Chris stomped his foot down onto Lukas’ instep, an impotent move thanks to thick boots. A ballsy move, though. Another thing to like about him.

“Listen, damnit! I’ll go, right now. But I want you to promise me you’ll ask your mother about those names. It’s important.” When Chris’ head turned a little and Lukas felt his jaw move under his hand, he said, “And no, I’m not going to explain why, not right now.”

“Mlmmt mmegummm.”

He was so tempted to ask what? so he could hold Chris there longer and see him a little more worked up. He tried hard not to focus on Chris’ body against his, but he couldn’t block it out completely, not even in a situation this serious. He let go, and Chris spun away from him, wiping his mouth and glaring.

“You said you’d go, so go.”

“Get a piece of paper.”

“I really don’t want you here when my mom gets home. You said you’d go.” He pointed at the door.

“Write the names down, Chris. It’s import—”

“Brent Hollister, Jennifer Bray, Vance, Emery, Merrick. I have an excellent memory. I’ll ask her. How will I tell you what she says?”

“I’ll be in touch. Just ask her, as soon as you can.”

Chris had every reason to call the police, to think Lukas might be a psycho. But the way his honey eyes were more curious than afraid, Lukas trusted Chris to listen to him.

Lukas had no reason to stay there now, not once he said he’d go. As he turned, a light breeze blew through the house. He didn’t know which window was open or how far, but the scent on the air was unmistakable.

Wolf.

“Lock this door behind me,” he growled.

“Oh, you can count on that.”

“Close the windows. Lock them.” He didn’t want to frighten Chris, but he couldn’t leave him vulnerable. Not that a locked window would mean much against a determined were, but anything that could slow one down could be helpful.

“Why?”

“Just do it. I’ll explain later.”

“Okay.”

Lukas stepped out the door. Chris closed it behind him, the locks snapping into place. He ran around the house, noting any open windows. One stood open, only a screen in place, in the room where Chris’ father sat at his desk, working. Damn.

He hurried to the next open window. “Chris,” he said, not loud enough to alert his father, he hoped, but enough for Chris to hear. He was supposed to be closing and locking windows, so he should get there soon enough. “Chris!”

“Oh my god, you’re yelling in the windows now!” Chris jogged into the room. “What?”

“There’s an open window in your dad’s office.”

“Just closed it and locked it. Told him the news predicted rain.”

“Good. There’s this one, and don’t forget about the one upstairs.”

Chris snorted. “You’re joking. You want me to close and lock my window on the second floor? Someone coming with a ladder, you think?”

Lukas resisted the urge to snap at him. It did sound crazy if you didn’t know what could be coming. He could sense Chris’ uneasiness, even though he was making jokes. That was Lukas’ fault for not handling the whole thing better.

Maybe he could have if he could think clearly that close to Chris. But damn if he couldn’t.

“All of them, even upstairs.”

“You’re going to explain this later.”

He gave a quick nod. “Ask your mother.”

Chris slammed the window down, harder than necessary. Lukas waited until the upstairs window, Chris’ bedroom he’d said, was shut and presumably locked, before looping around the house, sniffing the air.

The scent was gone. He couldn’t risk going in search of it. He circled the house again, straining to get a hint, but nothing. Headlights appeared at the end of the street, so he ran to the backyard and scaled the house. He sat outside Chris’ window far enough to the left that Chris couldn’t see him. No one from the street or the driveway should be able to, either.

Other houses, he wasn’t sure about, but the dormer put him in shadow from any light coming from the street. There should be enough tree cover to hide him from the houses around, as well.

A truck pulled into the driveway. If Chris’ mother knew any of those names, he’d have a chance at figuring all this out. He took in great gulps of air as she walked to the house, and caught her scent.

Nothing. No hint of wolf or anything supernatural. Most importantly, no hint of his pack.

How was Chris even possible if neither parent had the scent? The only options were if one or both of them weren’t his parents, but he looked like his father. Lukas wondered if he’d been adopted from a family member, or he was simply wrong about the resemblance. That had to be it.

He couldn’t smell like pack when neither parent did. He couldn’t.

Lukas tried to pick up on any conversation inside the house, but a television had been turned on, making it all but impossible to hear past the mumble of voices. He listened for Chris to come into his bedroom, so he could knock on his window and find out what his mother said.

A scent came to him. Wolf again. But this time, pack. Maybe it had been before, but he was too drawn to Chris’ scent to distinguish properly. Maybe he was losing his mind.

The breeze blew a little quicker, and he recognized the scent it carried. Oh, god damnit. Lukas hung his head and took a deep, calming breath.

“If I were a threat, you’d be dead by now?” The soft, laughing voice came from the trees. “You haven’t changed, Lukas. Still smoooooth.”

“Griffin. What are you doing here?”

“Can’t I see my baby brother when I want to?” Griffin leapt silently onto the roof and crouched next to Lukas. He wore a similar leather jacket, but in brown, and his dark blond hair could use a trim. “I missed ya. Ain’t that reason enough?”

Griffin dropped down onto his ass, making more noise than he had while jumping over there. His grin made it clear he’d meant to.

Lukas wouldn’t be baited. “What do you know?”

“‘Bout what?”

“Damn it, Griffin.”

“‘Bout a bunch of towns, some dead bodies? This damn thing stuck on my car last week?” Griffin pulled out a piece of paper and held it up for Lukas. It took only a second for him to make out the names in the dark.

Lorton

Paleyville

Hunter’s Rock

Lakeside

The same list he’d been given. Same handwriting, as far as he could tell. He grabbed the note and sniffed it. It only smelled like Griffin.

“Already tried to get a scent off it, genius. Got zip.” Griffin snatched the paper back.

“Got any theories?”

“I’ve got a theory that whoever’s doing this is an asshole. Beyond that, no. I’ve been a step behind you, but now that you’ve found one who hasn’t been turned into chop suey yet, I thought we’d work together.”

Of course he did. He probably wouldn’t have followed up on the list at all, otherwise, and he only knew that Lukas had because he was a nosy son of a bitch.

Griffin sniffed Lukas, his eyes glowing yellow. Lukas put his hand over his brother’s face and pushed. “Spread out.”

“You smell like him. Your clothes . . .” Griffin closed his eyes and licked his lips. “How can he smell like that? Like us, but not us? Some kind of a trick?”

“I don’t know.”

“He was here, earlier. You smelled him, didn’t you?”

“He?” Lukas’ back straightened.

“Another wolf. Not long before you came out, I caught his scent and followed, but lost it about eight blocks over. I think it knows he’s in there. No way he can’t smell that . . . it’s so strange. Wolf, but not. I’ve never—”

“I know.” At least Griffin only seemed enticed by the strangeness of it, and wasn’t affected like Lukas. It was hard enough dealing with his own wants than to have to rein in Griffin’s, too. He had hoped that the earlier scent had been Griffin, and he’d simply not recognized it because his senses were overloaded. Not so.

Lukas had to assume the other wolf was after Chris.

“Okay, okay,” Griffin said, holding his hands up. “Look, you’re here, and I assume you plan to stay. I’m going to go try to find him. He’s gotta be staying downwind, or he has a great hiding place. I still don’t know how he got so far ahead of me. I’ll stay fairly close, though, in case he shows up and you need help.”

Lukas hoped he didn’t need help. “Be careful.”

“Always am.” He slapped Lukas’ shoulder as he stood. “Good to see you, bro.”

“Is it?” Lukas didn’t look up.

Yes, dumbass, it is.” Griffin didn’t move, so Lukas finally met his gaze. He really had missed his brother’s face, even if this wasn’t the best time for Griffin to show up. If he could be helpful, it would be great. But somehow he usually ended up making things more difficult.

“Okay. Good to see you, too.”

Griffin put his hand on his chest. “I know.” He leapt from the roof and was gone.

Lukas let his head rest against the dormer and tried not to think about his brother being there. Griffin could take care of himself, and until they’d figured all this out, at least there wouldn’t be much time for them to talk about other things. Right now, he had to focus on Chris.

Griffin was right, though. Chris’ scent was all over him. He alternated between feeling on edge from it and wanting to relax into it. Roll in it and howl. He lifted the hand he’d had over Chris’ mouth and placed it over his own, flaring his nostrils as he inhaled deeply. He let his tongue slip out and slide along his palm where Chris’ lips had pressed against his skin.

His whole body shuddered, the instinct to protect, to protect what was his, making every inch of him feel alive in a way he never had before.

What the hell am I going to do?

Get Shift: Wolves of Hunter’s Rock now!

Have you checked out my other paranormal romances (and a couple of contemporary romances, too)?

Shift Teaser: Chapter 2

Shift

Wolves of Hunter’s Rock

Shelley Grayson

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 1

 

Chris couldn’t look away or answer, because when Albert said shitty car, the dark-haired guy’s lip curled back to show white teeth. He didn’t like that. Which was ridiculous, because how could he have heard it from so far away?

“Come on.” Albert walked around the car and pulled at Chris’ elbow. “Cheeseburger’s calling my name. Rein in your hormones.”

Chris let himself be pulled a step backward as he stared across the parking lot. The man tilted his head back, took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. Then snapped them open and glared at Chris again.

“Foooood,” Albert said, pulling Chris off-balance enough he couldn’t right himself before he toppled sideways, taking Albert with him.

“Jesus!” Albert shouted. “I’m sorry, I didn’t think you’d be stupid enough to fall.” He helped Chris up, patting him and looking around as if embarrassed. “You okay? How can you run like a cheetah and still be such a klutz? I hope Elizabeth didn’t see that.”

Chris peered at the empty driver’s seat where the dark-haired man had been. He scanned the lot, but the man was gone.

“Chris, you okay?” Albert gripped his shoulders.

“Yeah.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Yeah. I’m . . .” He didn’t feel fine. More . . . unsettled. Excited. He punched Albert in the arm. “Be more careful. You should buy my burger, make it up to me.”

“I bought it last time.”

“You could have killed me just now.”

Albert stopped in front of the restaurant door. “Okay, but do me a favor? Look at my butt as we walk by Elizabeth’s table. Like it’s a great butt. A grabbable—”

“I will make pie-eyes at your butt in front of the girl you don’t even like anyway, you weirdo, just go.” Chris frowned at Albert’s butt like it was a horrifying curiosity as they passed Elizabeth’s table, but put his fingers under his chin and cocked one eyebrow when Albert turned to see, as if he’d been admiring it all along.

As they waited for their order, he kept losing track of Albert’s meandering conversation about various girls. Of course, Albert had picked a table near the back. Chris wished he could see out the window and keep an eye on that car. Watch for its driver.

His stomach muscles fluttered every time he remembered the intensity of the man’s stare.

***

Each second the young man looked at him made Lukas’ skin feel too tight and restricting. He wanted to puff up his chest, shift, preen for him. His brown hair and brown eyes, the firm jawline, full lips—everything about his face seemed perfect, exactly the things Lukas would have picked if he’d been asked to gather features together to create something beautiful.

And those eyes. Even from this far away, Lukas sensed them on him. The stirring between his legs made him want to run, to rut.

To leap across the parking lot in a few strides, grab him and—

The guy fell over, pulled down by his clumsy friend. Lukas wanted to leap from the car, pick him up, and toss his friend as far away as he could. Fortunately, the break in eye contact let him come back to his senses.

He did leap from the car. But instead of following the delicious scent, Lukas ran across the side street into the sea of cars parked at the other half of the strip mall. He crouched behind one and didn’t look up until a bell chimed above the door of the ice cream shop, signaling that they’d gone in.

The way the dead teenagers in Lorton and Paleyville had been mangled couldn’t have happened with potential witnesses nearby. Any witness to either murder would have been mangled right along with them, or they’d have hurried to get help. So this one—Chris, his friend had called him—was probably safe as long as he wasn’t alone.

He still didn’t understand how Chris or the others smelled like pack. The wrongness twisted Lukas’ insides. At least with this one, he could get close while he was alive and try to figure it out.

Lukas went back to his car. He drove down the street and pulled into a convenience store parking lot to wait until Chris left the ice cream place, then he’d follow him home.

Chris couldn’t be alone anywhere until Lukas figured out what the hell was going on.

“Chris,” Lukas whispered, trying the name out loud as he pictured his face and amber eyes.

Chris.

The name vibrated through him.

Whatever happened in those other towns wasn’t going to happen again in Hunter’s Rock. Lukas would keep Chris safe, no matter what.

***

Albert bought Chris’ burger, fries and milkshake, making Chris feel guilty about looking at his butt like it might belong in a sideshow. Chris would have to make it up to him later.

He ate with gusto, in a bigger hurry than usual. He was eager to get back outside and see if the man was back in his car, maybe make eye contact. That had been . . . something.

Albert was only halfway finished with his massive banana split, though. Chris slowed down so he wouldn’t be sitting there with nothing to do but watch Albert eat and think about the dark-haired stranger in the parking lot.

“Oh, goodie.” Albert tilted his head toward the door. “Roger Dodger’s here.”

Roger Sinclair was their 6’2”, 300-pound classmate who, despite having been teased a lot in grade school because he was one of the few black kids in the area, never missed an opportunity to point out Albert’s ancestry.

“Hey, Jackie Chan.”

Incorrectly.

“Oh good, nobody’s been racist at me all day. Was starting to miss it.”

Roger touched the corners of his eyes and stretched them sideways. “Jackie Chan, my man.”

“He’s Chinese, dumbass. For the hundred-thousandth time, I’m Korean.”

“What’s the difference?”

Albert sighed as Roger spun a chair around and straddled it. “What you guys up to?”

Albert shrugged. “Hoping you were abducted by aliens or joined the Peace Corps or something.”

“Oh my god,” Roger said. “You are too funny, and I cannot take that kind of mirth in my life.”

“We’re not doing anything. Just hangin’ out,” Albert said. “What’re you doing? Circus leave without you?”

“You’re fun.” Roger spied a fry still in Chris’ basket, grabbed it and shoved it into his mouth. “Can you believe it’s October already?”

“I hadn’t eaten that because I dropped it on the floor.” Chris pretended to be shocked, and Roger looked back and forth between them, shaking his head and smiling like he didn’t believe it. Then he frowned.

Albert elbowed him. “Nah, he’s messing with you. And yes, I can believe it. This happens every year, right between September and November, not exactly a mystery that defies understanding.”

“I know, it just seems unreal it’s here already, dumbass. What’re you guys doing tonight? Wanna grab a movie or meet up in Warcraft?”

Albert swallowed the huge mouthful of banana and ice cream he’d shoved in. “I’ll play later, yeah.”

“Cool. See ya . . . One Hung Lo.” He clapped Albert on the back before he walked away. Chris braced himself for shoulder slap he knew was coming. Roger hit a little harder than he meant to.

“Later,” Chris said. An outsider looking in would probably wonder why he or Albert had anything to do with Roger. But he was harmless, and he had a good heart under all the layers of bullshit. He and Albert were two of the few people who’d ever bothered to look that deep. They got along, and had each other’s backs, and aside from Roger’s need to call Albert Chinese names, they were friends.

Albert threatened to start calling him Denzel Washington or Martin Luther King from time to time, but agreed it wasn’t the same.

If Albert was going to play World of Warcraft, he wouldn’t be coming over. Chris was okay with it, because he wanted time alone to reflect on the man in the parking lot. Reflect, he thought, grinning at how his reflection might require tissues and a locked bedroom door. He shifted in his seat, and drank his milkshake.

Albert finished his banana split, and sighed when he noticed Elizabeth had left without glancing their way. Chris tried not to look too disappointed that the beat-up car he hoped to see was gone, too.

Well, there was always reflection.

He dropped Albert at his house and headed home, the sky a deepening gray when he pulled into the driveway. His dad’s truck was gone, but light shone out the kitchen window on the side. He hoped his mom hadn’t cooked a big dinner, because he’d forgotten to warn her he might stop for a snack.

His stomach rumbled. He could actually eat again. What was with his appetite lately?

Chris stepped onto the porch. The skin at his nape tingled.

A soft voice said, “Chris?”

He turned, and the backpack he’d carried on one shoulder slid off with a thump. The man from the parking lot stood at the bottom of the three steps, close enough to touch. How had he gotten there without Chris hearing him? How had he gotten that close?

Chris’ mouth dropped open as he took in the dark hair that shone despite the fading light. The man’s intense eyes made Chris’ blood heat up, and the stubble accenting his face tempted Chris to reach out, trace the sharp angle of his jaw. Chris’ gaze went where his fingers couldn’t, down the man’s corded neck to the strong shoulders, the chest. He guessed the guy was over six feet tall, and his black leather jacket didn’t hide the strength beneath that Chris wanted to press his palms against.

This guy was perfect.

He swallowed and cleared his throat. “You—”

Chris grunted as the guy grabbed his upper arms, then pushed him backward until he came up against the house, next to the front door. It wasn’t violent, it didn’t hurt, but it was fast and unexpected.

And then the man pressed his face against Chris’ neck, under his ear, and inhaled.

Chris’ body molded to the hard form pinning him against the house, their bodies fitting together. He couldn’t get his wits about him to speak or move or shout for help, dumbass?

Chris was frozen, and as the man pressed harder against him and took another deep breath, a shudder went through him. The scent of leather was the next thing Chris noticed, then the warm skin against his. He smelled musky in the best possible way—male and earthy and fresh.

The man lifted his face long enough to grind out, “How? Who are you?” before inhaling at the other side of Chris’ neck.

He squeezed the man’s upper arms, a part of his brain telling him to push and get away while another, louder part urged Chris to pull him closer. He imagined lifting his legs and wrapping them around the man’s hips.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Chris tilted his neck to the side, and the guy growled against his skin. He shuddered again, and found the only thing holding him upright was the body against his.

The porch light snapped on, jerking Chris back to reality. He pushed at the man’s arms to get him to back up.

The guy flinched at the light, but didn’t move. When Chris shoved, he let go and took a step back.

Chris’ dad opened the door and stepped out. He was a little taller than Chris, but not as tall as the leathered-up guy who’d just sniffed his neck, so the stranger was definitely over six-feet tall. His dad wore khaki pants and a blue and green plaid shirt, his idea of casual wear. It made his reddish hair look even redder under the light.

“Chris. You’re home.”

Chris leaned against the house, his mouth open, his face too warm, and before he could answer he started sliding down as if his legs couldn’t support him anymore.

***

Lukas reached for him, but Chris’ dad did, too. Lukas let go and took another step back.

“Whoa, Chris.” Chris’ father held his arm and looked back and forth between them. “What’s, uh . . .”

“Nothing, Dad.” Chris straightened and brushed off his shirt. “Just got a little dizzy. Long day.”

Lukas hadn’t meant to grab him and back him against the house, but Chris’ scent was better than the woods after rain. That alone might have compelled him do it. Yet the scent of pack that was there but couldn’t be there agitated him to the point he had no choice but to do whatever he could to figure it out. He thought an up-close sniff might help him decipher it.

He hadn’t expected to have such trouble letting go, and to have to fight with himself so hard to keep from tasting the warm skin that smelled so good.

And he certainly hadn’t meant to be caught by his father.

Chris’ dad crossed his arms in front of his chest, one corner of his mouth curved up. “Nothing? I saw you two, making out on the porch right in broad daylight.”

“It’s nearly dark, Dad.”

“It’s a figure of speech, son.”

Chris laughed. “Yeah, for things done during the daytime.”

At least Chris’ dad didn’t seem angry. Lukas held his hand out and used it as an opportunity to step closer. “Lukas Vance. Chris has told me a lot about you.”

Lukas inhaled. Inexpensive aftershave used a little too liberally, cigarettes and an apple he must have eaten recently.

Not a hint of pack.

“He has, has he?” Chris’ dad said as he shook Lukas’ hand. “Tyler Keenan, at your service. If you ever need a comprehensive whole life plan, let me know. But you young fellas think you’ll live forever, so I won’t hold my breath.”

Lukas smiled at the peculiar man, then cut his eyes to Chris, trying to convey the need for Chris to play along. His mouth still hung open. Lukas was tempted to put his fingers under Chris’ chin and close it.

“So, how old are you, Lukas?’

“Dad!”

“I’m twenty-three.”

“Oh, slightly older man.” Tyler clasped his hands together. “Well. Ahem. It was nice to meet you, Lukas. I’ll let the two of you . . . I’ll let you . . .” He waved his hands a bit, then laughed. “Well, goodnight.”

Chris slumped against the house as Tyler opened the door. But Lukas stepped forward.

“Actually, Mr. Keenan, Chris had invited me to come in for a while . . . if that’s okay, of course.” He glanced at Chris and willed him to agree, just nod and agree.

Chris gaped and shook his head. He ran his fingers through his soft-looking hair and glared at Lukas like he might be the craziest person he’d ever known. But after a few tense moments, he said, “That okay, Dad?”

“Why, sure! You know,” Tyler said as he held the door for Lukas, “Chris hasn’t brought a guy home since high school, none but the usual friends. Though maybe I shouldn’t be tell—”

“No, Dad, you really shouldn’t.”

“Sorry.” He turned to Lukas. “My wife ran out for a few things, but I’m sure she’ll be happy to meet you, too. I’ve got some paperwork, but make yourself at home. Good night, then. Right.” Tyler clapped him on the shoulder before he disappeared down the hallway.

Chris grabbed Lukas’ arm and tried to pull him back to the door.

“I don’t know what the hell’s going on, but you need to get out of my house, now.”

Chapter 3

In the meantime, have you checked out my other paranormal romances (and a couple of contemporary romances, too)?

 

Shift Teaser: Chapter 1

Shift

Wolves of Hunter’s Rock

Shelley Grayson

 

CHAPTER 1

 

Lukas Vance rolled into Lorton just after dawn.

His old Chevy Caprice sputtered as he slowed for another stop sign, reminding him it was tune-up and oil change time. Had the trip been planned, he’d have done it before driving for six hours. It’d be twelve after he figured out it was all for nothing and made the trip back home.

At least he hoped that was how it worked out.

He eyed the small piece of paper he’d tossed onto his cracked dashboard. Lukas had looked at it so many times, he didn’t need to read it to know what was written in a dark, unsteady script:

Lorton, tomorrow

Paleyville

Hunter’s Rock

Lakeside

The list had been tucked under one of his wiper blades while he’d been in the grocery store the night before. He’d tried to shrug it off as a prank or someone who’d left the note on the wrong car, but the strangeness of it kept pulling at him. And if the cryptic list of towns wasn’t bizarre enough, no human scent clung to the paper. Could be the breeze washed it away. Could be something else.

He’d figured Lorton was only six hours away. It couldn’t hurt to check it out. But it could hurt like hell, it could haunt him, if he ignored his instincts and didn’t go.

He knew that from experience.

You were a kid, Lukas. Give yourself a break, his brother’s voice sounded in his head, the same words he’d said more than a few times. Then, as now, Lukas heard bitterness underneath. Blame. The words sounded like lip service when the voice saying them was tight with pain that would never go away.

Pain he could have prevented, if he’d have been less stubborn. Less proud.

Lukas shook his head to clear it. He rubbed his cheek, the usual two-day stubble rasping under his fingernails. He felt trapped inside his skin and wanted to pull over and run, so he pressed his nose to the sleeve of his leather jacket, letting the scent calm him as it always did. Even though guilt came with it, as it probably always would.

A boy on a bicycle passed him and chucked a bagged newspaper over the top of his car. The kid’s back tire skidded as he turned at the intersection, and he went down.

Lukas frowned. It would be wrong to sit there and do nothing, even though he’d rather stay in the car until the boy got up and rode away. If the kid had a bone sticking out somewhere or started screaming, of course Lukas would help him. But if it wasn’t necessary, he’d rather keep to himself.

The kid looked up at him, their eyes meeting through the dusty windshield. Lukas sighed and opened the door to stand with one foot in and one foot out.

“You okay, kid?”

“Yeah. Dumb bicycle!” The kid hopped up and kicked at his bike.

Pack came to Lukas on the air, the scent unmistakable. He opened his mouth to taste it and breathe it in. Blood. Death. He whipped his head side to side, took a few steps left, then right, trying to hone in on the exact direction it came from. A growl rumbled in his chest.

“Dude, what’s your problem?” The boy scrambled onto his bike and zoomed away.

Someone in his pack was dead nearby.

He didn’t recognize the scent as anyone specific, couldn’t place the strange undertones, but Lukas should have recognized it. He could identify distant relatives in extended bloodlines like the Merrick and Emery families, even relatives through marriage, by scent.

He didn’t know this lost wolf who shared his blood. And that wasn’t possible.

Lukas tumbled into his car and squealed away from the stop. He raced too fast through the residential streets, stomach knotting as he got closer to the dizzying scent of blood, of pack, the shock and strangeness of it all making it hard not to howl.

***

“Keenan!”

Chris Keenan, running full out for his car, didn’t turn as he shouted back at Albert. “What? Can’t hear you!”

“Slow down, asshole!”

Chris didn’t slow, but held up a raised middle finger, laughing. Albert was the one who’d wanted to race, though they’d been parked all the way across campus. Parmenter was probably one of the smaller community colleges in Illinois, but it was still a solid run from the science building to the corner lot where Chris had parked.

The distance was enough that Albert had to know he couldn’t win.

“And Albert Molasses Gage loses again,” Chris said as Albert took the last few steps, panting and shaking his head. Chris patted his cheek. “When’re you gonna learn, bro? If you’re flirting with a pretty girl and want to show off, challenging me to a race isn’t the way to do it.”

“But, how? When?” Albert gulped air between words. “Did you get? So fast?”

Chris had asked himself the same thing. “That growth spurt I had as a junior, maybe?”

Albert laughed. “If it’s a protein bar or espresso or something, you could share your secret with your ol’ buddy Albert, you know.”

“No secret. Just got taller, I think.” Chris unlocked the car and laughed when Albert collapsed into the passenger seat as if his bones wouldn’t hold him up anymore.

“So, do you think she likes me?” Albert rolled his head enough to look at Chris and grin, eyebrows wiggling.

“Not if she has any sense.” Chris carefully backed out and made an effort not to go over the 10 mph limit. He didn’t need another ticket from the rent-a-cop campus officers.

“She’s pretty, though, isn’t she? Like really, amazingly pretty. And so smart. Smart and pretty.”

Chris sighed. “Yes, she’s smart and pretty. Just like Elizabeth Brainerd, the one you were all a-flitter for yesterday. And Ashley Brown, the week before that.”

“Elizabeth chews with her mouth wide open. And Ashley asked me where I was from. When I said I was from Hunter’s Rock, she said no, I mean, where in Asia. Which is annoying on its own, right? But when I said I was born in South Korea, she said, and I’m not kidding, I was lucky to get out with that Kim Chung guy running things the way he did.”

Chris laughed. “What did you say?”

Albert fished a water bottle from his backpack and took a long drink. “I just agreed with her. I could have corrected his name and explained things, but she’s probably challenged trying to tell left from right, let alone north from south. Can you imagine?”

He cupped his own cheeks and spoke in a soft, Valley girl accent with comically wide eyes. “Oh my god, you were only there as a baby and you still look so Asian, isn’t that something? She was stacked, but I have my standards.”

Chris turned and headed toward The Cream Machine up the road from the college. “So is this one a little more intellectual? Maybe you’d have better luck if you’d stop picking potential dates by their bra sizes.”

“Oh, ho! I could say the same for you, buddy.”

“I’m reasonably sure none of the guys I want to date wear bras.”

“No, they all have rippled abs and perfect pecs and butts you could bounce a quarter off of. But I’m the shallow one? Nope. You’re as guilty as I am.”

Chris smiled, but he knew it wasn’t true. Of course guys like that were attractive, but Chris only flirted with them because he was pretty sure nothing would ever happen. If they were way out of his league, he wasn’t in danger of being asked out or propositioned.

It was safer that way.

As Chris pulled into a spot in front of The Cream Machine’s front window, Albert said, “Oh, look. Elizabeth’s here with some guy. I hope he enjoys the entire process of mastication, because she doesn’t mess around.”

Albert unbuckled his seatbelt and turned to lie down with his head in Chris’ lap. “Why does it have to be so hard? I should start working out and then we can date each other. You don’t gross me out, you’re smart, and you have a car.” He batted his eyes at Chris. “And I know you like dark hair, baby.”

Chris snorted and smacked the top of his head. “I have no boobs. Get off.”

“Getting off, that’s what I’m talking about!”

“Oh my god, get up, get up!” Chris laughed and hoped nobody in the restaurant noticed Albert lifting his head from Chris’ crotch.

Albert slammed his car door. “I know why you picked this place today. It’s the guy with the long sideburns who you thought flirted with you that one time when he was scooping your mint chocolate chip.”

“So?”

Albert licked his fingertip and touched his own butt, arching his back. “Bet he’s real . . . smart.”

“You’re imposs—” Chris’ voice caught in his throat as he noticed a guy about a dozen cars away and three rows over in the strip mall parking lot. Dark hair, dark stubble, dark eyes. Dark intense eyes that looked back at Chris. A decent distance stretched between them, but Chris could make out his features as well as if he were in the next car. He came crisply into focus in a way nothing else did.

“Chris?” Albert turned in the direction of Chris’ gaze. “What you lookin’ at? The dark-haired guy?”

Chris managed a nod.

“Hmph. Shitty car.”

***

Lukas followed the dark green Toyota from the college campus to the ice cream shop up the street. He wondered how it had been so easy to find this kid when the girl in Paleyville had been a pain in the ass to locate. This time, he’d decided to cruise through the nearby college campus with his window down on a hunch, since the other two had been students.

The boy in Lorton had been a mangled mess when Lukas had found him. The local police had beaten him to the scene, which was a good thing. If he’d been there, hunched over the body as they approached, the overwhelming scent of death and blood might have kept him from sensing them until it was too late. He didn’t have time for jail.

He’d stayed in Lorton long enough afterward to listen to the gossip but not long enough for locals to notice a stranger hanging around right after a murder. Asking the cops about it didn’t seem like a smart thing to do.

The victim was Brent Hollister, twenty, not from Lorton but there visiting an uncle on a short road-trip from college. The uncle was the immediate suspect, but was ruled out pretty quickly in the minds of the townspeople. None of them believed he was capable of such a thing.

Besides, the initial impression from law enforcement and the coroner was an animal attack or the kind of murder that took someone deranged to carry out.

After he had that information, he drove to Paleyville, a state over in Missouri. It took him three days to catch the scent of pack, this time without blood and death clinging to it. The pack scent was still wrong, there where it shouldn’t be, but at least the person it belonged to was alive.

He’d followed her around for a few hours, and then some idiot texting and driving had rear-ended him and insisted he stay for the police.

“It’s totally my fault, just . . . leave out the texting okay? My insurance’ll cover everything, but I’m gonna say I didn’t see you.”

Lukas didn’t care, but it took too long to convince the guy he’d fix his own car and didn’t need a police report. Before the grateful driver zoomed off, it started to rain, scrubbing the scent of the girl he’d been tracking from the air.

He’d picked it up again later that night, but this time it was drenched in blood. The smells of grass, leaves and bark from his vantage point in a tree several blocks away from the scene couldn’t block the scent of death and pack. He’d perched in the branches of a huge, nearby oak that made it easy to hear when someone showed up at the crime scene screaming her name. Jennifer was dead.

He hadn’t stayed around long enough to find out much else about her aside from her full name—Jennifer Bray—and that she was a college sophomore on her way to an accounting degree. He could come back and investigate if need be, but he had to get to the next town on the list, Hunter’s Rock, as fast as possible.

And not lose the scent this time.

If not for the accident and delay that made him lose Jennifer’s trail, he could have saved her.

Whoever waited in Hunter’s Rock wasn’t going to get out of his sight once he found them. He couldn’t help the first two, but maybe he could save the next one.

Parmenter Community College seemed to serve several small towns in the area, including Hunter’s Rock. It was as good as place as any to start looking for a sophomore-aged kid. As soon as he’d driven onto the campus, window rolled down to make it easier, the scent hit him.

Pack.

Pack and something else.

Not blood this time. Not death. Something . . . intriguing. Lukas’ heartbeat picked up, the pulse in his neck vibrating as blood surged through him. If the scent had hit him on any ordinary day, he would have pursued it until he found the source. It called to him, teased him.

He followed.

The boy—no, not a boy, his scent wasn’t a kid’s but a young man’s—dashed across paved walks and grass, weaved through and around other students, and disappeared into a crowded triangular lot. The angle made it hard to see much, but what he could see—warm-looking skin, carefree, dark brown hair, a lean build—he liked. Lukas stopped his car right in the road before the lot to watch another young man running behind him, much slower, less gracefully. He wasn’t pack.

The first one, though, he smelled so damn appealing.

The light sweat the guy had worked up rode the breeze right to Lukas. Oh, yeah, he’d have definitely chased down that scent under other circumstances to find out who it belonged to.

A car honked behind him. He drove on and turned into the lot of a gray stone and glass building with a sign in the window advertising the drama department’s performance of Our Town. His breath steamed up the windshield glass though it wasn’t a particularly cool day.

He followed the pair to the ice cream shop, parked and watched.

When the first young man turned his direction, he wasn’t sure how he managed to keep himself in the car.

Chapter 2

Have you checked out my other paranormal romances (and a couple of contemporary romances, too)?

 

 

The Wolves of Hunter’s Rock are Coming!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll add a chapter or two at a time to this blog to tease you for the upcoming release of Shift: Wolves of Hunter’s Rock.

The book is 95,000 words and the first novel in a series featuring the same characters. There’s definite romance with an urban fantasy feel, adventure, peril, and lots of pack bonding and found family dynamics.

I love these characters, and I hope you do, too.