Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth

Today I finally get to share my review of The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth (I loved it, 5 stars all the way!). I also have a great post from Scott that gives us an idea of how the story was shaped.

My Review

Post-apocalypse meets pastoral in The Great North by J. Scott Coatsworth. The story has bits and pieces of the modern world sprinkled in, laid waste by the idiocy of man, of course, that highlight the fact the world has changed in the future. But the majority of the story reads much like a tale you'd expect from the past when farming held sway and a single storm could decimate a people.

What I really liked about The Great North was the way the new reality shaped the cultures of the people, and how, even though they were relatively close in distance, Dwyn and Mael's people took completely different paths to survival. While the science isn't named outright, the story themes include genetics, highlighting how insular the different towns are, based on the character's fascination with each other's coloring (as each village seems to skew toward a basic 'type') as well as sexuality because, face it, when extinction is on the line and numbers are dwindling, not having kids just isn't an option, especially when you have a small pool to begin with.

Of course, menage relationships versus strictly heterosexual ones is quite the gap in paths. These very different philosophies come smack up against each other when Mael's people have to flee their home after a great storm and are on the brink of collapse when they find Dwyn's village. A short break, some trading, a moment to recover from the tragedy is all Mael thinks they will find when he accepts Dwyn's offer to let their caravan camp close by.

So what happens, when Dwyn faces going against his village's morals and laws because he is drawn to Mael? Can Mael, whose people accept that a person can love more than one at a time and everyone deserves to be happy, handle Dwyn's fears based on the brutality he'd witnessed himself against a man who'd dared to be a holer? Can they find a way to be together or will duty and fear win?

You'll have to read the book to find out!

What Survives?


I saw a fascinating play a year or two ago at the Capital Stage, one of our local theaters that specializes in putting on plays that are experimental, modern, or just make you think.

In the play, an unspecified event has just wiped out most of human civilization, and the survivors latch on to the TV show the Simpsons, trying to remember and re-tell the plots of their favorite episodes as a way to stave off the horror of what has happened, and to find common cultural ground. The play progresses across a couple hundred years, and these recreated episodes of the Simpsons family and the assorted connected characters become for the future humans what Shakespeare’s plays are for us, as well as a reflection of the tragedy that has befallen humankind.

They are both a window into the past and a mirror of the present.

As the author, Anne Washburn, explains:
It was just musing, in the subway, about what would happen to pop culture after a sudden fall of civilization, wondering what would survive, and how it might be useful. I wondered what would happen if you took a TV show and pushed it forward in time, and then forward again, what different needs it would serve, and how serving those different needs would change it. I thought maybe "Friends" or "Seinfeld" or "Cheers," anything which had been beloved or popular, and I ended up hitting on "The Simpsons," a bit at random. Steve Cosson of the Civilians (an investigative theater group of which I am a member) approached me to see if I had a play they could commission and the first step in writing it was to gather a group of actors and ask them to remember "Simpsons" episodes. The one they best remembered was "Cape Feare" and I made a transcript from that session and used it to begin the play.

This dynamic was one of the things on my mind when I wrote “The Great North.” What parts of our current pop culture would survive an apocalypse? While not the dominant theme of the story, it was something I had fun playing with.

One example:

Dwyn redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.

"Someone's being chased by a lion," Baia said with a laugh.

"Or a tiger." Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.

Dwyn grinned. "Or a bear?" Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, "The Girl and the Aus." He had no idea what an Aus was, either.

Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.

There are more, littered throughout the story. I had a lot of fun scattering them like apple seeds, to see how they would sprout.

I hope you enjoy them too!


 
Press Kit – The Great North

Publisher: Mischief Corner Books

Author: J. Scott Coatsworth

Cover Artist: Freddy MacKay

Length: 34K

Format: eBook

Release Date: 6/14/17

Pairing: MM

Price: 3.99

Genre: MM, Sci Fi, Fantasy, Romance, Myths, Legends, Gods, Post-Apocalyptic

Blurb:

Dwyn is a young man in the small, isolated town of Manicouga, son of the Minstor, who is betrothed to marry Kessa in a few weeks’ time.

Mael is shepherding the remains of his own village from the north, chased out by a terrible storm that destroyed Land’s End.

Both are trying to find their way in a post-apocalyptic world. When the two meet, their love and attraction may change the course of history.

—————

The Great North was inspired by St. Dwynwen's Day, also known as Welsh Valentines Day:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwynwen

Excerpt:

"We celebrate Dwyn's Day as a testament to true love and sacrifice. It's a remembrance of the way things were and the way they've come to be. In the end, let it be a reminder that every one of us has the power to change the course of events through love."
—Dillon Cooper, New Gods and Monsters, Twenty years After Dwyn

The gray clouds scudded by overhead, blowing in quickly from the east.
Dwyn shivered and pulled on his woolen cap. It was cold out, unusual for so early in the fall. The rains had been heavy this season, the wettest in a generation, and Circle Lake was close to overflowing its banks. If he stretched to look over the rows of corn plants, he could see the waters lapping at the shore far below, as if hungry to consume his village of Manicouga.
His father had consulted the elders, some of whom had seen more than fifty summers, and everyone agreed things were changing. Whether that augured good or ill was anyone's guess.
He shrugged and moved along the row of plants, breaking off ears of corn and throwing them into the jute sack that hung from his shoulder.
Ahead of him, two of his age-mates, Declan and Baia, were working their way down the next two rows.
Dwyn frowned. He got distracted easily, and he'd let the two of them get a jump on him. That wouldn't do.
He redoubled his pace. He moved with focus and purpose, and soon he was closing the gap with his friends.
"Someone's being chased by a lion," Baia said with a laugh.
"Or a tiger." Declan grinned, his nice smile only missing one tooth, lost to a fight with one of the Beckham brothers the year before.
Dwyn grinned. "Or a bear?" Dwyn only knew lions and tigers from the fairy tale his mother used to tell them, "The Girl and the Aus." He had no idea what an Aus was, either.
Bears he knew. The hunters occasionally brought one home, and old Alesser had a five-line scar across his wrinkled face that he claimed came from one of the beasts.
A shout went up from ahead of them. Dwyn craned his neck to see what the ruckus was, but he couldn't make out anything. "What's going on?"
Declan, who was half a head taller, looked toward the commotion. "Hard to tell. Something down by the road."
Dwyn laid down his sack carefully and ran up the hill to one of the old elms that dotted the field. He climbed into the tree, scurrying up through the leaves and branches until he had a clear view of the Old Road. It ran from up north to somewhere down south, maybe near the ruins of old Quebec if the merchant tales held any truth. Hardly anyone from Manicouga ever followed it, but occasionally traders would follow it to town, bringing exotic wares and news from the other villages that were scattered up and down its length.
They swore it went all the way down to the Heat, the great desert that had consumed much of the world after the Reckoning.
"What's going on down there?" Baia called from below.
Dwyn tried to make sense of it. "There are three wagons coming down the pass. They're loaded up with all sorts of things. They don't look like traders though."
The first of the horse-drawn wagons had just reached the field above the main township. It stopped, and someone hopped off to talk with the villagers who had gathered from the fields.
"We need to get down there," Dwyn said, scrambling down the tree trunk. "Something's happening." Nothing new ever happened in Manicouga, and he wasn't going to miss it.
He grabbed his sack and sprinted toward the Old Road, not waiting to see if Declan and Baia followed.

Buy Links Etc:







Author Bio:


He decided that it was time to create the kinds of stories he couldn’t find at his local bookstore. If there weren’t gay characters in his favorite genres, he would remake them to his own ends.

His friends say Scott’s mind works a little differently – he sees relationships between things that others miss, and gets more done in a day than most folks manage in a week. He loves to transform traditional sci fi, fantasy, and contemporary worlds into something unexpected.

He runs both Queer Sci Fi and QueeRomance Ink with his husband Mark, sites that bring queer people together to promote and celebrate fiction that reflects their own lives.

Author Links:

Website: https://www.jscottcoatsworth.com

Facebook (personal): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworth

Facebook (author page): https://www.facebook.com/jscottcoatsworthauthor/

Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/jscoatsworth/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8392709.J_Scott_Coatsworth

QueeRomance Ink: https://www.queeromanceink.com/mbm-book-author/j-scott-coatsworth/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/J.-Scott-Coatsworth/e/B011AFO4OQ



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Twenty-four


Chapter Twenty-four




Males came pouring out of the clan house. The betas were big, but from what Ritch said, they were bullies. I knew how to deal with bullies. I traded blows with the first to reach me, pain exploding in my jaw as he got in a punch before I could duck below it, but he missed with the second. I crouched and surged upward, striking in a sharp uppercut that knocked him backwards. He stumbled and fell, down for the count.

I snarled when someone came from the side, hoping to catch me unaware. “Nice try, fucker.”

The guard’s eyes widened but then he snarled in return. “I’m going to kill you.” He flexed his claws.

“You can try.”

Trein was nowhere to be found, not a surprise. He was a coward. I sidestepped the next attack, moving faster than the beta who obviously thought strength meant packing on muscle until he probably couldn’t even cross his arms over his chest. He certainly couldn’t catch me, which pissed him off.

It was easy to use his size against him. I was done with this and didn’t feel like drawing the fight out. Ducking, I drove one shoulder into his gut, taking him to the ground. He tried to flip us, but I spread my legs and kept him on his back. Before he could claw me, I grabbed his head and slammed it into the ground. He went limp, his arms and legs loosely sprawled.

Someone else had already busted in the front door. I ducked under the arm reaching for me when I tried to enter, turning and nearly unable to pull my punch when I realized it was one of the guards I’d assigned to Deke. “Where is he?” I growled.

Carson pointed at the kitchen. “He told me to guard the entrance so no one could sneak up on him.”

It was solid logic, but I didn’t like Deke just having one guard at his back. “Stay here.”

Not knowing where everyone was, I prowled through the lower level of the house. Stairs beyond the kitchen went up and there was a door hung ajar showing stairs going down. I didn’t hear any sounds or movement upstairs, so I approached the doorway. I eased the door open and listened, but there was a heavy silence and I still couldn’t hear anything.

I eased down the first step, then paused. The darkness was nearly absolute at the base of the rickety wood steps. I could see the edge of a wall, but that was it. I crept down the stairs, pausing to listen periodically. Rushing ahead was my first instinct, but I was trying to be smart.

The hair on my neck rose, making my ruff stand up. A soft shurring came from behind the wall. What the hell was that?

I crouched next to the wall and then took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. Blood, new and old, filled the air along with a sour stench. The sound was fading, a scrape, scrape, drag… someone being dragged? I peeked over the edge of the wall. There was a pool of darkness close to me, and I couldn’t see the outer edges of the room beyond the wall, but there was a door open and light coming out farther away.

Someone’s feet disappeared into the room as I watched, and I knew those boots. Deke!

Darting around the wall, I stumbled over something. Falling hard to the ground, I fought to contain my grunt so I wouldn’t give up the element of surprise. Close to the ground, I could see I’d tripped over a body—the second guard I’d sent with Deke. Something had torn out his throat.

Shit.

I jumped up and raced toward the door, not worrying about being silent anymore. I didn’t like to use it, but I wasn’t going to waste time trying to put whatever took the guard down by hand. My bond to Deke as my alpha was still there, so he wasn’t dead, but there was no telling how long he’d stay alive if I didn’t hurry.

Unsure if the person with Deke was hostile or not, I hesitated to shoot immediately as I ducked and rolled into the room. Someone—something—was crouched over Deke’s vulnerable belly. I snarled and it looked up. The creature’s face was distorted, nose pointed and chin receding, with large teeth. The thing’s face was coated in blood.

I put a bullet between those wide eyes. Bright blood and brains sprayed out behind it as the back of its head blew out. It fell backward, away from Deke. I panned the room, gun held at the ready, but there was nothing in there but a filthy blanket in one corner and a bucket in the other. A cell? Home to the rat-like creature?

What if there were more? If there was anyone else in the basement, I’d just announced my presence with a bang, literally.

Scuttling sideways so I could keep an eye on the doorway and make sure no one took me by surprise, I reached down and smacked Deke’s cheek. “Wake up, man. Shit. Wake up.” There was blood on his temple, but it didn’t look like that thing had taken a bite out of him. Maybe it jumped them and Deke hit his head?

I didn’t want to carry him out, but he wasn’t waking up. If I was going to get Deke out, I’d have to carry him.

Tucking the gun into the holster, I grabbed Deke’s limp body and heaved him up and over my shoulders in a fireman’s carry. Turning sideways, I got him out of that disgusting cell. No way to carry the dead guard, so I left him. Looking up at the stairs, I muttered a short prayer that they’d hold our weight.

Sweat stung my eyes as I climbed cautiously. I was at the top before I realized the door was shut… and locked.  


TBC

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Wednesday Briefers

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Wednesday Briefs: Mine! Part Two Chapter Twenty-three



This chapter was inspired by the prompt: Have a character shriek like a banshee.


Chapter Twenty-three

“What are we going to do? Just surround the territory and attack? Use whatever means necessary on the bastard to get information on where the rest of the scientists are? It had to be that guy who followed us and Trein, or they would’ve been at that hunter’s camp.” Taking out the bastard what I’d wanted to do after Trein’s man attacked me to kidnap Ritch, but my personal desires had to be pushed aside. Now that we had evidence the man was complicit, and a murderer, I had free rein to kill the fucker.
Deke rolled his eyes. “No, Park, we are not just going to surround the territory and attack. The eagles are scouting for us. Ritch gave us the layout of Trein’s compound, but if he’s involved in these experiments, they can’t be happening openly where his clan gathers. No matter how much he has them under his thumb, the risk would be too great. But he has a lot of access to thick woods and mountains beyond his property—state land that is only too remote to patrol by humans.”
“Perfect for hiding an army.”
The bear’s beta asked, “But there are only so many human werekin, and what about the souls? They’d have to kill so many of us to get that many. Even we would have heard about it in our solitary dens. How can they have an army?” The rest of the betas and alphas were waiting in clumps, talking quietly while we waited for Landon’s clan to report.
“My mate brought up an idea that I hesitated to consider, but it has validity. There hasn’t been a wholesale slaughter of the clans to steal souls, but when the doctor was experimenting on him, he was attempting to isolate the different souls in Kraig’s body.” Deke flashed his fangs. “He succeeded in being able to suppress and enhance one or the other, sending Kraig into a feral state. His souls, a bonded pair, cause him to act as if they’ve been ripped apart by the death of the other.” He took a deep breath. “What if they found a way to rip a single soul apart, into an untold number of pieces, and mingle it with a human’s spirit? In that way, they could create a feral army, humans who’d gone wild and uncontrollable in a feral state.”
Silence fell over the group.
“But… but that’s impossible.”
“So is joining two souls that used to belong to two bonded werekin in a human werekin’s body. They’ve already done the impossible.” My stomach cramped with fear at what we might face. I’d thought about scientists, guards to protect them, a few complicit human werekin and clans… but I’d secretly been as skeptical of an army as the faceless guard who’d spoke up.
I only hoped I could stay alive to keep my promises to Ritch.
A call from the perimeter of the meet up sent everyone on alert, but it was just Landon with his men. The wolves had joined them, and now our group was complete again. “What did you find out?” Deke asked.
“The car on the video parked outside of Trein’s house.” Landon pulled out a tablet. “We used silent glider drones to take these videos.”
I marked the placement of all the guards on the main map. “There are a lot of patrols.”
Landon nodded. “We’ll have to use stealth to take most of them out if we want to get in close enough to attack the houses. The doors and windows are all fortified on Trein’s house, but his clans are far more vulnerable.”
“We’re not going to kill them all, are we?” As non-predators, the antelope clan was less inclined toward violence, but they were fast and nimble, a boon on this mission. “Women and children?” The herds protected the vulnerable.
“Whenever possible, mercy is to be given to the non-combatants. I say we allow the herd clans to take them to this building.” It was a small school. “Round up anyone who isn’t a threat and put them in the rooms and keep them quiet.”
Victor spit. “What if some of those cowards surrender? I don’t relish killing someone who isn’t fighting back.”
“Commit a small contingent of guards to hold them on the opposite side of the territory. Restrain them”—we all had restraints rated for bonded werekin—“and dump them. The goal is to take out Trein and his beta as well as his guards, but not kill them.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but Deke held up a hand. “Yet. We need to know exactly where the scientists are. Why was that human was so important they risked coming onto my territory and killing guards to take him? How many other clans are in on it?”
He had far too many points for me to argue. A sick sense of pleasure shot through me. Maybe I’d get to be the one who tortured the answers out of Trein. There was nothing I wouldn’t do to avenge Ritch’s abuse at his hands and the capture and experimenting of my brother.
 “Are we going to keep talking about how we’re going to do this, or are we going to do it? The night is fading.”
“Let’s go.” The grim finality in Deke’s voice and the hardness in his eyes aged him. I didn’t know if my face had undergone the same transformation, but I met his gaze and held it. He was my alpha, my best friend, my brother’s mate.
“Be careful.” I’d already assigned two guards to flank him at all times and protect his back.
“You too.”
We moved to the borders of Trein’s territory, then stalked his guards one by one. We were nearly to his inner compound when one guard shrieked like a banshee as he died. Our element of surprise was gone.
I bolted for the houses I could see through the thinning trees.

TBC
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Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Wednesday Briefs Mine! Part Two Chapter Twenty-two



This chapter was inspired by the prompt: Include a John Denver reference.


Chapter Twenty-two

The alphas were skeptical of our report, until Deke showed them the footage of Trein’s attack on our streak. I gave my report, one hand clenched around the wrist of my opposite hand, as I stared straight at the wall. It took all of my control not to snarl when I shared what Ritch had told us.

“But why did they take the human and not the werekin they experimented on?” one alpha asked.

“I don’t know,” Deke said. “Unfortunately, I was waiting until the convocation to interrogate him.
The werekin they left behind doesn’t seem to be able to speak. He barely aware.”

“Probably dying from some experiment they did on them.” The older alpha glanced sidelong at my brother, and I bristled. “It’s an abomination.”

Deke’s chair legs screeched on the floor as he stood abruptly and bent over the table. “Do we need to go over my opinion on that word again?”

The alpha leaned back in his chair. “No, no. That won’t be… necessary.”

“Then watch how you speak on my territory. I do not know for certain what that werekin’s story is, but I will find out. In the meantime, I mean to go after Trein. Clearly he’s involved in the human werekin experiments, and they’re moving on to straight humans. Maybe that’s why they took that guy. They’d done something to him or they planned to and needed him specifically for an experiment. Whatever it was, it’s serious, or they wouldn’t have risked coming onto my territory without having a traitor in our midst like before.”

“I agree,” Durant said. He stood. “We must go after Trein. I will commit my clan beside yours in this cause. Change toward the human werekin among us should’ve happened a long time ago; it’s shameful it’s taking the risk of all-out war and discovery from the humans to force it.”

“Who else will go? I am leaving my mate in charge here, and some of the men and women have volunteered to replace the guards on the perimeter searches and to protect the vulnerable. The majority of the guard will go with us. That’s sixty-four sound fighters, led by myself and my beta.”

“We aren’t as big as you, but I have forty guards I could spare,” Durant said.

“Sixteen,” said the bear clean leader. “We are spread thin in our territory, preferring to be solitary, but I know one of my couples has a baby that was born a human werekin. He is vulnerable. I wouldn’t see him taken and his life ruined by the plots of sadistic men.”

I was pleased to see the bear alpha volunteer. They were standoffish and solitary, and they rarely joined convocations. This threat might bring the clans together in a way that nothing else could have. Clan alpha after clan alpha stood and announced their decision. Not all would go with us, but those who didn’t offered up support in weapons, equipment, or information.

Trein would be sorry he joined the wrong side.


“You gave us the maps, that’s good enough.” I patted the copy I had folded in the front pouch of my path. The paper crinkled under my fingers. “You’ve done enough. It’s time for you to stay here and be safe. Help Kraig, and take care of my mother, please. I’m counting on you to be here when I get back.”

“Here?” asked Ritch in a tentative voice. We were standing in my bedroom next to the bed. He nervously licked his lips, glancing at the bed and then back at me.

“Only if that’s what you want, and only when you’re ready.” I reached out and grabbed Rich’s hand, reeling him in close. He kept his eyes down, and a low rumble vibrated in my chest. “Look at me.”
He slowly lifted his chin until his gaze finally met mine. “You are an amazing man. I am constantly thankful that I met you; I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

Rich opened his mouth to protest, but I cut them off. “Just take it like I mean it, okay?”

“Okay.” He nodded. “You’re amazing too.” His hands caressed my shoulders. “I want to be here when you get home. Can I sleep in your bed while you are gone?”

“Baby, you can be in my bed anytime.” Shit, that was corny. “Now, how about a kiss? I’m leaving on a jet plane, and I don’t know when I’ll be back again.”

Ritch made a face. “Did you just quote a John Denver song?”

“Maybe. But not the song, I’m thinking about that awesome scene in that asteroid movie where the guys all sing it. You know?”

“I’ve never seen that movie either. I only know the song because I remember my mom singing it.”
“Well, it’s a date. We’ll watch it when I get back. Maybe we’ll watch it in bed on my laptop.” The thought of snuggling with him—and maybe more—was making it hard for me to want to leave.

Hell, who was I kidding? I didn’t want to go, and I definitely didn’t want to leave him behind. But he’d be okay and the sooner I left, the sooner I’d be back. “Give me a kiss.” The order came out on a growl, but he didn’t hesitate.

Thoroughly kissed, my pants too tight in the crotch as they bulged unmistakably, I walked out of my house.

Deke snickered, but he was worse than me. I didn’t want to think about him and my little brother and sex in the same thought, so I slipped him off. “The staging going off without a hitch?” With as many cars as we had leaving the streak property, we had to space them out or it’d look suspicious to the humans.

The last thing we wanted was for some law enforcement to get us on their radar.

TBC

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Wednesday Briefs Mine! Part Two Chapter Twenty-one




This chapter was inspired by the prompt: Include a terrible storm in your story.




I was right. Mom wanted that guy out of his cell and somewhere more comfortable as he healed. Deke wouldn’t let him anywhere near Kraig, and I didn’t want him anywhere near Ritch. Thankfully, Christian stepped up and offered his guest room—and a twenty-four hour guard. It was hard to think past my desire to kill Trein for his trespass against our streak.

Against all werekin.

Deke was calmer than me. He updated the alphas and the convocation was going ahead that evening as soon as everyone arrived. We’d lost the chance to interrogate the prisoners, but we knew where to find more information. But it would take a concentrated effort to attack another werekin’s clan.

It had to be done, but I’d relish it.

“Did he think he was going to get away with it?” I asked. Deke had called for every able-bodied member in the streak, not just the guards, to convene at his house. We stood on the porch waiting for them.

“Maybe. Not every streak has embraced technology the way we have. The security cameras are well-hidden, and the computer was tucked into the desk. They probably thought Jackie was dead when they knocked her unconscious.”

Ritch was silently standing next to me, his arms crossed defensively over his chest. Trein had abused him, used his body, treated him like he was nothing. I ached to make him feel safe, but I wasn’t sure how to do it. Not yet, at least. When Trein and his cronies were dead, then he’d be safe.

“Trein doesn’t like technology. His streak is old-fashioned, mostly tradesman jobs and apprenticeships. The girls are married off and then stay home to raise more kids. Most of them don’t own computers or have more than basic TV service.” Ritch shivered. “The strong males take what they want, and the rest of the streak just tries to survive. Most of the time I was kept locked up, but I saw things when Trein paraded me around to show off his superiority.”

Deke stiffened. “He did what?”

He’d told them part of what he’d endured, but when Deke had questioned Ritch before, he’d focused on what he knew about the doctor and the experiments he’d done, not the life Ritch led among the streak after his own alpha had basically sold him.

“He’s a sadistic bastard, but he’s not that smart. I don’t think he’s behind the experiments, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s allied with the people who are. Someone needed muscle, and they went to him.”

“If the doctor was in your herd’s territory before, I bet your old alpha was part of it too. This is even more widespread than we feared.” Deke ran a hand over his bristly ruff. “How will we hide an all-out war from the humans?”

“I don’t know.” Thankfully, that was going to be Deke’s problem. My problem was finding Trein and taking the bastard down. I was eager to start; I cast a glance over the crowd of murmuring males standing in the yard, locking down on my need to leave immediately. I was the beta, I had responsibility I wouldn’t abandon, no matter how fierce my desire for revent. “Everyone’s here.”

Deke stepped up to the edge of the porch. I positioned myself to his left, next to Kraig, but Ritch stayed near the house. I didn’t push him to come closer for now.

“We have been attacked, and the loss of two of our streak will be felt keenly.” Deke put a hand on his chest and the link between us throbbed. A terrible storm swept through the males in front of us, sorrow and rage a heavy mix of tension. I watched the crowd as Deke informed them of the impending arrival of the alphas and the upcoming battle we faced, a dark niggling in the back of my head, worry that my father wasn’t alone in his betrayal.

“This is the most dangerous threat our society has faced in a very long time. These traitors are angling for power, and they’re not above torturing and killing innocent werekin to get it. Our society needs to change, but not like this. If we don’t stop them now, the risk of humans finding out about us is almost certain.” Deke squared his stance and lifted his chin. “Either outcome is intolerable. The guard will be needed, so a secondary line of defenses will be erected by the remaining able-bodied members of our streak to protect the elderly and vulnerable.”

“For how long?” someone asked.

“The alphas will make the decision on how to respond to the attack on our streak and the experiments we uncovered. Trein will pay for his trespass. My home is open to those in the outlying areas of the streak’s property. Kraig will remain here and be my voice in my absence.” He swept the crowd with a firm look. “His word is mine.”

“Yes, Alpha.” Our streak wasn’t like the others, and Kraig had been raised among everyone. Despite what that bastard had done to him, he was one of us. They wouldn’t reject him, even if he wasn’t the mate of the alpha.

“Please keep your phones close. We will send out alerts as soon as we have more information. In the meantime, please be aware of your surroundings and stay safe. Thank you.”

They slowly dispersed. We went inside, and Kraig went into the kitchen. He started pulling things out of the fridge. “What are you doing?” Deke asked.

“Making stuff for the alphas. Mom isn’t here to do it this time.”

“It’s hardly a social occasion,” I scoffed.

“They are traveling here from a distance, and the reason is stressful. Tempers will already be short and being hungry and thirsty will only make that worse.” Kraig shot a look over his shoulder. “Any more questions?”
Deke and I shook our heads. Kraig went over to the counter. “How can I help?”

TBC

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