With Blue Moon being published, I wanted to share the prologue of the story here a little early–you might be able to call it a Happy Valentine’s Day, at least, belatedly.
So without further ado, here’s the full prologue, no holds barred.
“Stay with me, Dad! Just a little longer!”
It was a still night on the dirt trail leading by Braddock’s Field out in the countryside surrounding Arkin City, Georgia. The sky was clear and the moon was waxing, close to full. Stars dotted the blackness around it, easily seen that far away from the inner city where light pollution would’ve otherwise dimmed their glow.
It was a calm sky looming over a dire situation.
Cade Hodgins had just been betrayed by the one person in his entire pack he should’ve been able to trust, and now his father’s life hung in the balance.
“The paramedics are coming now, so stay still.”
Henry Hodgins lay in his son’s arms, bleeding from a gunshot wound in his chest as he struggled for breath. Cade applied pressure to the wound with a wadded strip of cloth he’d torn from his shirt, trying to reassure him the entire while.
“You’re strong, Dad, it won’t be long.”
Or maybe he was trying to reassure himself.
Despite his certain tone of voice, there was emotion underlying it that couldn’t be denied. His father was strong. Still, even the strong fell when shot in the chest with a revolver.
The notion got Cade to tighten the press of his left hand over his father’s wound to keep as much blood in Henry’s body as possible until medical help arrived.
But there’s so much of it . . .
“Cade . . . ”
“Don’t try to talk, save your strength.”
“It’s too late, son,” he rasped.
“No, it’s not! The ambulance will be here any minute, goddamn it! You’re gonna be fine!”
Despite the weak strain of his voice, or the pain he must have been in, Henry gave a slow, proud smile. The look stabbed into Cade like a knife.
“I know,” Henry confirmed before he cringed, tensing in pain.
Cade gripped him more tightly to hold him still, unrelenting until his father finally managed to relax again.
As soon as he did, Henry went on to say, “Cade, I want you to . . . do something for me.”
Cade wanted to both acquiesce and deny his father’s request at the same time. The paramedics would be there any minute, so they could talk at the hospital later. Where the fuck are the paramedics?
As if controlled by someone else, Cade spoke while mentally questioning the location of the medical aid he’d sent for via phone, “Sure, Dad, whatever you want.”
Another unsteady intake of breath. “Don’t let the pack . . . fall apart. It’s gotta stop.”
“Of course,” Cade agreed without hesitation. “You know I wouldn’t let that happen. I’ll take the lead as Alpha.”
Henry nodded weakly. “I know. You’d make . . . a damned good one too. I love you, son.”
His father let another grunt of pain when the sounds of sirens blared in the distance. Finally. “I love you too, Dad. We all do, always will. Can’t you hear the sirens though? They’re right here. You’re gonna be fine.”
Cade grated out the words urgently, stubbornly, but no matter how desperate he was, he couldn’t ignore that his father didn’t seem to mind one way or another if the ambulances were right there, or a million miles away. It was almost as if Henry knew something Cade didn’t, quietly peering up at the sky, taking in the stars twinkling and the moon shining brightly.
After a moment, he turned his amber eyes to Cade. That was when his expression finally grew more serious.
“I want you to be happy . . . Cade. All of you. Sara, Caleb, Conner, your mother,” he drew out the names slowly, and as if mentioning them alone brought him joy, he smiled.
“Tell them . . . I love them, and you. More than anything.”
“You’ll tell them yourself tomorrow, Dad. You know Mom’ll kick my ass otherwise,” Cade replied in a weakened attempt at humor, still clutching the bloody wad of cloth with streams of red flowing over the back of his hand. This isn’t happening . . .
Though Henry showed the faintest sign of amusement over the comment, Cade couldn’t help but let the urgency he felt show in his voice when he added, “You keep fighting, damn it! Don’t you dare give up on us!”
In response, Henry simply pressed Cade. “Promise me that.”
Cade fought his emotion down after hearing the desperation on his father’s voice. He had to put him at ease even though he wanted to make Henry fight to live more than anything. If these are his final moments . . .
“I promise, we’ll be fine no matter what happens.”
“Proud of you, son.”
Pain shot through Cade as he realized that this was, in fact, happening. As clearly as he could, he declared, “I’m damned proud of you too, Dad. I couldn’t ask for a . . . better father.”
His voice hitched on the words, but Cade gave the most meaningful smile that he could muster through the anguish and fear he felt.
Henry offered a single nod to say he’d heard and understood every word. He looked completed and, though Cade denied it, he looked ready.
The ambulance came up the gravel road not too far beyond a Chevy Silverado that was parked about fifteen feet away from the father and son, drawing Cade’s attention for a brief moment.
“They’re here, Dad,” Cade announced, looking back down. “See? I told you it . . . wouldn’t take them . . . Dad?”
Henry’s eyes weren’t focusing, only staring lifelessly toward the sky.
Cade took in a deep breath, keeping his panic inside while tugging his bloody hand from the cloth he’d been using to apply pressure to his father’s chest. He laid his shaking fingers against Henry’s throat, feeling, waiting, trying to find a pulse, a sign of life.
“No,” Cade shook his head in denial, his voice shaking with emotion. For a brief moment, he thought that maybe Henry was just playing a little prank, like when Cade and his siblings were children.
“Dad, come on, don’t do this to me. Not now.”
The ambulance stopped and the paramedics rushed from the back of the vehicle onto the scene.
“Dad! Don’t . . . They’re here now!”
He paid absolutely no attention to anyone until one of the medics tried to pull him away. That was when he turned and shoved the large man back so hard that he fell into the grass.
Cade finally heard them addressing him, and realized they’d been speaking all along.
“We need you to step back now!”
Reality dawned on him that they were here to save his father’s life, and when the man he’d shoved came back over, he finally released Henry, moving out of the way.
Everything seemed like it was spinning around him. In fact, the only thing he could focus on was his father’s face, which he could still see between the frantically working medics.
Whatever was said and done to save Henry’s life, Cade wasn’t sure. He was completely numb inside, not even realizing that the police were showing up in that very same moment. Instead, he had only one thought playing in his head, put on repeat over and over.
I should’ve made it here sooner! I could have!
What seemed like hours passed while they tried to revive his father. But all too soon, the medics shook their heads, silently telling each other that their efforts were in vain.
Henry Hodgins was gone.
Cade watched them exchange bleak looks as an officer walked up next to him and asked, “Sir, are you Cade Hodgins?”
Cade didn’t reply. He couldn’t. Reality had just changed drastically, and it was the most gut wrenching sensation he’d ever had. He’d never once thought a world could be turned inside out so damned swiftly, but apparently, it was all too possible.
In fact, it cut so deeply that he reacted violently.
“No!” Cade bellowed at the medics as he headed over, demanding, “Try again! Keep fucking trying! He’s not dead!”
“Sir!” One of them gasped out the word while trying to intercept him, but Cade easily pushed the man out of the way if he wasn’t going to help.
The action got one of the other police officers stepping in without question, grabbing Cade to hold him back and attempt calming him down. But Cade jerked away, then turned and shoved him so hard that he flew onto his back in the grass.
I’ll bring dad back myself if I have to. Just when he turned to attempt it, the police officer who’d tried to question him swept a foot out and tripped him.
Cade fell forward before he could even take a step, landing face first in the grass. But that didn’t put any sense in his head—it only increased his determination. And his anger.
The officer Cade shoved before came back over along with a third when they saw that he wasn’t cooperating. The first climbed onto his back right after he’d been tripped, pulling Cade’s arms behind his body to pin him there while issuing a warning.
“You need to calm down now.” His voice was hard and serious.
But the events of earlier that night kept replaying—being too late to warn his father, seeing him shot, watching him die in his arms.
It’s not his time! Cade was absolutely furious. He worked a leg beneath his body and pushed himself up without warning. The big officer on his back went stumbling to the side, allowing Cade to free an arm, which he used to shove the second away, and was ready to swing a fist at the third.
But before he could attempt to land a blow, he was tackled onto his back in the dirt. Someone with strength equivalent to his own landed over him with two hands pinning his upper arms while yelling, “Cade! Calm down!”
Cade was breathing heavily, still irate, but that angry haze began to die away when he saw a familiar face looming over him.
“Yeah,” the older man replied, a little winded.
They heard one of the officers he’d shoved muttering something about Cade’s strength and steroids, but they didn’t acknowledge the talk as Cade asked, “What are you doing here?”
“I got a call from an old friend on the force and came out as soon as possible.” Taking a deep breath, Leo asked his next question pointedly. “You gonna keep yourself in check now?”
Cade knew exactly what Leo was asking, giving a few nods of his head. Seeing this, the older man sighed in relief, then sat back while reaching a hand down to pull Cade up from the grass.
He accepted the assistance without question and sat with his knees bent before him, grass clinging to his clothing, dirt and blood smudging his face. He cast a grim look at Leo, who was a lifelong best friend of Henry’s, and had known the family since before Cade’s birth.
As if no one else was around, Cade growled, “Brady shot him, Leo. He fucking shot my father!”
After bellowing the words, Cade covered his eyes and grimaced, the pain of the comment cutting through him as if it happened all over again. His father was dead, and there was no way to change that. Now what the hell was he supposed to do?
How was he going to tell his brothers? His sister? How could he even look his mother in the eye, let alone tell her that he’d been too late to save his father and her husband?
He felt Leo’s arm going over his shoulders in comfort, but didn’t see the older man also waving the other officers away, silently saying to go about their business for now. Cade wouldn’t be receptive until he’d had some time to himself.
Tears began silently streaming down his cheeks while he tried to remember to breathe. Through it, Leo said, “You just take your time, Cade. I’ll keep everyone off ya until you’re ready.”
Cade couldn’t be more grateful for that, even though he didn’t want to just sit there like a knot on a log. Still, he couldn’t get himself to move, his body like lead. With a deep sigh, he let his arm fall across the tops of his knees in thought.
He and Leo belonged to the same pack of lupines that resided in Arkin City, and that night Cade had been betrayed by their Alpha, Brady Santon, who was laying face down in the field not too far away, already dead.
Staring at the body, Cade started telling Leo what happened without much thought put behind the effort.
“Brady was the one, Leo. It was him all along, and dad was already coming up here to meet him when I found out. I came as soon as I could, but by the time I found them, Brady pulled the trigger.”
Cade looked over at Leo to see that his face was one of shock. It reminded him of his own reaction when he’d learned what Brady Santon had been doing just before this happened.
He was hanging out at a bar called The Brickhouse earlier that night for some drinking and socializing. But Cade had done little of either when his father gave him a call on his phone and stated that he was taking a lupine he’d met to Brady for questioning.
There was a rumor traveling about that someone in their pack was betting on illegal wolf fights, and his father was trying to figure out who with Brady’s help. They’d been investigating the situation for a week now.
As was more commonplace, lupines sometimes engaged in fighting as wolves among their own packmates for sport, and though it could be brutal, they were never lethal, and never gambled on. It was nothing more than a show of skill and strength amongst their kind.
But the type of fighting that Brady was betting on were those pitted between humans who’d just recently been turned into lupines, what their kind called newborns. The instinct in those newly turned lupines was much more feral because the former human hadn’t had a lifetime to temper themselves.
So the newborns made much more vicious wolves, and the fights were always lethal.
It was an illegal practice for many reasons, but the biggest was the risk of exposure to humankind when their existence was kept secret. So when Henry heard that someone in their pack was betting on the fights, he’d taken it to Brady.
But Brady was the culprit he’d been looking for all along. Cade found out too late, and now Henry was dead.
“What were they doin’ up here, Cade?”
Leo asked the question while Cade was drifting in thought, and he looked back up at the older lupine, trying to get his mind to draw up the information.
“Same plan you came up with. Dad was posing as if he wanted to get in on the bets, and he found a contact. He called me and said he was bringing the guy up to Braddock’s Field so he could trap and interrogate him with Brady, try to find out who the gambler in our pack was.”
Grumbling, Cade added, “I only saw him briefly before he took off running when I showed up and Brady tried to turn his gun on me.”
Leo thought about that for a moment. “You get a scent?”
Like wolves, lupines had enhanced senses, and that of smell was no different. “Yeah,” Cade replied, “but I’ll have to come back later because I can’t catch it now. Too much . . . blood.”
He couldn’t help the way he’d spoken the word because a good bit of that blood was his father’s.
Leo nodded, glancing over at the body of the big, blonde haired Alpha, and he let a feral growl. “Brady, you stupid fuck.”
Then he looked at Cade and asked, “You shoot him?”
“Yeah. Dad was already down, and Brady caught wind of me too late. He turned around and aimed, but I tackled him to the ground before he could fire. We struggled, and I got the gun and turned it on the son of a bitch.”
Leo gave an approving nod. “How’d you find out about him anyway?”
“Overheard Brandon talking to Hobbs at The Brickhouse.”
Realization dawned on Leo’s face when he asked, “Didn’t Brady owe Brandon money?”
“Yeah, and he was pissed, so I heard every word he said. He told Hobbs that Brady got shitfaced drunk and started promising he’d pay what he owed as soon as he could win his money back, but it might take time with that Hodgins asshole sniffin’ around. Brandon didn’t know what that meant, thought it was just drunken gibberish.”
Leo began to nod, his expression a mix of anger and grief over the discovery, gaze turning out across the scenery.
Braddock’s Field was a part of an old estate that used to be a plantation during the early nineteenth century. Now, it was mostly fields with an old mansion settled at the northern most corner of the property which had since fallen into disuse.
It was a wide open space well suited for a lupine interrogation—or a murder.
As Cade continually went over everything in his head again and again, trying to figure out what he could’ve done right to save Henry, Leo mentioned, “I wouldn’t be surprised if the lupine Henry brought up here was in line with Brady all along, Cade, that he led your father to Brady on purpose.”
The suggestion only redoubled Cade’s anger as he promised, “When I find him, he pays in blood.”
Leo nodded in approval just as a police officer stepped over toward them. Cade didn’t look up at the human, more interested in considering his vengeance as the officer addressed him.
“We need to ask you a few questions before too much longer, sir.”
Cade didn’t give any confirmation that he’d even heard the officer. He only turned to his side and pushed himself up from the grass. Leo followed, standing while Cade finally responded on a gruff tone of voice.
A while later, Cade was standing next to his father’s truck. The coroners had arrived and were loading the body bag carrying Henry Hodgins into the back of their van while Cade watched silently.
He couldn’t feel anything in that moment. Somehow, it was more like someone else was in the bag, not his father. Things still hadn’t settled in completely, but he knew they would the moment he brought this news home to his family.
He stared down at the phone in his hand. Cade hadn’t even tried to call them due to a single thought chilling his blood.
Many lupines became ill and died when they lost their mate. Would Cade have to endure loosing his mother too?
Leo was giving him a concerned look from where he stood on the dirt path nearby. Cade knew he was there, but he hadn’t said more than two words since the police had asked their questions.
Every officer at the scene was human, and for that reason, Cade and Leo weren’t as forthcoming with their story as they may have been otherwise. But Leo himself was retired from the force, and there were lupine officers still working that he knew personally.
He’d get into contact with one later and give a more detailed description of the events if only so anything suspicious could be hidden more easily. If it weren’t for having some of their kind in high places, it would be much harder for the pack to exist in a human society.
After so much silence passed between them, Leo finally spoke up. “I wanna be there when you tell your mother about this. Hell, I introduced Rose to Henry to begin with.”
“I’m going over to see her first thing,” Cade replied. “You can follow me there.”
“All right,” Leo agreed, then asked, “but what about you, Cade? Can I do anything for you?”
“You can back me up.”
“Back you up?”
Cade faced Leo, a determined look in his steel blue eyes. “I’m gonna take up the role as Alpha of Arkin City. Then I’m gonna find the bastards running those fights and stop them.”
Leo seemed to approve completely, reaching out his hand without hesitation. Cade looked down at it, then grasped it in a firm hold.
“You and your siblings have always been like my own,” Leo informed him. “You know that. So I’ll back you up no matter what, Cade. I swear it on the sake of the pack.”
Though he’d just been betrayed by the Alpha, Cade knew Leo’s words weren’t empty. He would support Cade the entire way.
Cade killed Brady, even if it had been with a cowardly gun—a weapon their kind disliked using because it made things too easy. But no matter the means, it was Cade’s rightful place to take up the role of leading the pack now.
He would do it come hell or high water, regardless of who challenged him for the position—if any did. Then he’d find those responsible for the fights that Brady was betting on and put them under too.
They’d pay for everything.
Blue Moon will be available on from Amazon Kindle soon!