Book 4 in the Lone Wolf Series, Wolf Revealed, releases 3/16! Until then, here's a sneak peek of the first two chapters including the moment Silas and Chloe meet...
What happens? Lets just say there will never be a dull moment between these two! Read on to find out:
The scent of sage and willow bark permeated my workshop. I coughed and waved my hand to cut through the thick smoke that had suddenly gone from ambient to fire hazard. Tossing my book aside, I grabbed for the dried bundle of herbs I’d left burning and stamped out the embers on the wooden block beside me. Leave it to the latest Kelly St. Clare novel to distract me and burn down the place. I really needed to stop losing myself in a book while I was supposed to be working.
I opened the windows and began the task of fanning out some of the smoke that had gathered. The fresh air lightened up the worst of the clinging heat and felt damn good against my sweaty skin. Late summer in North Carolina brought its own cloying heat at times, but with the canopy of trees overhead, the shade offered a welcome cool that swept in now. With the smoke under control, I rolled my sleeves higher and reached around to wrap my white-blonde hair up into a messy bun on my head.
Then I got back to work.
An hour passed quickly as I lost myself in the art of mixing and grinding the herb blends I’d harvested a couple of months back. It was a soothing task—one that was quickly becoming obsolete now that our coven had magic again. But, no matter how much magic I wielded, working with herbs would never get old for me. It was the strongest connection I had left to my mother. Besides, the coven’s obsession with their newly returned magic had already led to enough injuries and small disasters that I wouldn’t go out of business anytime soon. Hell, with any luck, I’d become the coven’s healer after all. If I could find a way to skip Induction—which wasn’t likely.
Inevitably, I thought of my mother. She’d taught me everything I knew, and she’d worked her way from being labeled as the neighborhood hippy with her sachets and poultices to a respected healer with nothing but her own raw talent. When she died, I had every intention of following in her footsteps. I’d all but done it too. A healer without the official title was still a healer, dammit. Then the coven got our magic back, and everything I’d built began to crumble.
The council insisted we return to the old ways. “Our ancestors demand it,” they’d said.
It was a bid for power from those who’d been quick enough and strong enough to grab it. But to argue would only bring scrutiny, and I couldn’t afford that.
Instead, I backed away and concentrated on what was left for me here. My shop was still open despite my severe decline in customers. Who needed a slow cure when quick fixes were finally at their fingertips again?
After two months since our magic’s return, my bestsellers were now a supplement for hair growth and a tea that would make stressed housewives chill the hell out. It was depressing as hell, but it wasn’t like I had any other choice.
“I’ve heard of hotboxing, but this is another level.”
The sound of another voice standing so close to my workstation made me yelp.
“Shit,” I said, sucking in a deep breath and willing my heart rate to calm.
I glared at my oldest friend. Kel Archer. My BFF since forever and now, thanks to some pretty crazy recent events, the leader of our coven.
“You almost gave me a heart attack,” I said.
She grinned. “I’m sure you have a remedy for that.”
My eyes narrowed. “One day when you’re dying, you’ll ask for my remedy and we’ll see if I feel like giving it.”
“Damn, I startle you one time, and you threaten to kill my ass. Savage, Chloe. Real savage.”
“I learned from the best.”
Kel and I were complete opposites in a lot of ways. Where she was outspoken, I was shy. Where she liked to boss people, I liked to avoid them. But once you got past my quiet exterior, I could talk shit even better than she could. She was one of the only people in the world who knew that.
“I saw Travis earlier. He asked about you again.”
I didn’t bother suppressing my groan. “What did you tell him?”
“That you’re busy with work,” she said. “But he’s a persistent little fuck. You’re going to have to talk to him sooner or later.”
“Ugh. I’m really hoping for later.”
“He’s not one to take a hint. Gets that from his father.” She scowled, and I couldn’t blame her. Travis was an apple that hadn’t fallen far in my opinion. But I wanted to talk about him almost less than I wanted to talk to him.
“What are you doing here anyway?” I asked. “I’ve barely seen you in weeks.”
She wandered over to the counter on the far wall, eyeing the jars of herbs I stored there. Valerian. Skullcap. I made a mental note to refill the Cat’s Claw. Mr. Bradshaw’s gastric issues were a sure bet, especially come this fall when his wife started harvesting her hot peppers. Old man couldn’t resist even if he knew it would leave him hurting in the end.
“Checking up on you,” Kel said.
I tensed, knowing full well what this was really about. I refused to acknowledge it, though. Or argue about it. Again.
“Out of the two of us, I’m not the one who needs checking up on.”
She whirled, looking offended. “Hey, you’re talking to the newest coven leader. I think I can handle myself.”
I snorted. “These people have a short memory if they think you should be in charge. You were a menace in high school.”
She grinned. “Yeah, but I always had you to get me out of trouble.”
“Why do I feel like that’s what you’re about to ask me to do again?”
Her smile dimmed. “Because I am?”
I groaned. “What now? And do not say you need me at some diplomatic dinner because you know I hate people. And, turns out, they hate me, too.”
“No dinner,” she said, ignoring my jab. “Just one tiny favor, and I swear I won’t ask you anything else.”
“It can’t be that tiny if you’re swearing.”
“The thing is, there’s this guy. His name is Silas—”
“The lupin? No way. Don’t even think about involving me.”
“He’s not just lupin, Chloe. He’s hexerei too. A hybrid.”
She sighed. “Look, he has hexerei blood, but his gifts aren’t developed. If he can learn how to wield his magic, the coven will begin to see him as one of us.”
“Why see him at all?” I asked. “Send him back to his pack, and be done with it.”
“He can’t go home,” she said, and I scowled because, yeah, I knew that. I’d been there when the whole thing went down two months ago. Didn’t mean I had to accept it. Or him.
“Fine. So he needs to learn to use his magic. I’m not the only teacher around. In fact, I’m technically not a teacher at all.”
I had been. Sort of. Back when no one had magic beyond the earth’s energy to draw upon. But now, no one cared about true earth magic. Not when they could shoot things like fire and ice from their damned fingertips.
“You’re the only one I trust,” Kel said, and I shook my head, not even close to falling for her bullshit.
“No one else will work with him,” I said knowingly.
She winced. “That too.”
“Unbelievable,” I muttered. Crossing my arms, I said, “Kel, he’s a pariah. If I work with him, no one will want anything to do with me.”
“Perfect. You said yourself that you hate people. This will keep them away.”
“You’re taking advantage of me.”
“Name your price.”
I stared at her, surprised.
“Why do you want to help him so badly?”
“Because he’s my family,” she said quietly. “And because I’m not like Cohen. We have to break the hate if we’re ever going to live in peace.”
I sighed. I didn’t disagree with her. But this? She was asking me to commit social suicide.
“A favor,” I said finally. “Of my choosing. To be named at a later date. That’s my price.”
Kel bit her lip. I could see the wheels turning. Our kind didn’t trade in unnamed favors often. There were too many horror stories—legends, fairy tales, myths that weren’t myths—to warn off anyone thinking of actually saying yes. The fact that Kel hadn’t outright refused me immediately was a pretty good indicator of how badly she wanted this.
“Okay,” she said hesitantly. “But I won’t kill anyone for you.”
I barked out a laugh. “That’s where your mind goes? Don’t answer that. Ugh. Wow, I didn’t actually expect you to agree.”
“You should know me better than that,” she said. “I don’t bluff.”
“No,” I agreed. “But neither do I.” I blew out a breath. “Fine. Where is he staying?”
“Yes!” Kel ran around the counter to hug me. “Thank you. You won’t regret this, I swear.”
Famous last words.
I gripped the armrest with white knuckles, biting back the snarky comment on the tip of my tongue. In the driver’s seat, my brother Drew glared at the road as if it had personally offended him. I had a feeling he was picturing my face in every pothole. Or maybe Kel’s.
“She’s taking advantage of her position of authority,” he said in response to absolutely nothing on my part.
I glanced over and then rolled my eyes as we sped along the back roads that led toward town. “You’re being dramatic.”
“Well, it’s not like she gave you a choice,” he shot back.
I winced as we hit another pot hole going faster than necessary.
“Of course I had a choice,” I told him. “She traded an unnamed favor. That’s huge.”
He shook his head. “The coven’s going to roast your ass for this.”
“I don’t care what people think.”
“Well, you should.”
The words were biting, and while I knew he was just worried about me, my temper flared.
“You know, I don’t recall asking your opinion on my life choices, big brother.”
He looked at me, anger flashing in his blue eyes before he checked himself. “I’m just worried,” he said.
“You’re putting yourself at risk.”
“Drew, you know me. When do I ever take unnecessary risks?”
He didn’t answer.
“Never,” I added. “I’m always the responsible one. I don’t go out”—there was nowhere worth going in this town—“don’t date”—because there was no one worth dating—“and I don’t ever get into trouble. If we should worry about any member of this family, it’s you.”
He glared at me. “Don’t make this about me.”
I batted my lashes in mock sweetness. “Didn’t your last girlfriend glamour herself to look like your ex just to test your loyalty?”
“This whole coven’s gone off the deep end with their damn magic,” he muttered.
I smiled to myself as his lectures became more about what this world was coming to with “magic users who’d rather conjure a latte than make the world a better place.” He sounded more and more like Mom every day. But at least, the change in subject got him off my back.
My distraction worked right up until the moment we pulled up in front of the tired-looking cabin where my newest student apparently lived.
“This is where he’s staying?” Drew frowned.
This cabin had been empty since before I could remember. And not a single update had been made since then either, from the looks of it.
I eyed the sagging porch. “Kel said he refused a room at the coven house.”
“Probably wants to be alone so he can do shady shit when no one’s looking.”
“Drew,” I warned.
He rolled his eyes. “I’m kidding. Let’s just do this.”
He unbuckled and started to get out. I grabbed his arm. “Whoa, what are you doing?”
“I’m coming to the door with you,” he said in a voice that made it clear arguing would be futile. “I don’t care how responsible you are, Chloe. You’re still my little sister.”
I sighed and got out.
Drew led the way to the front door, and I made my way gingerly up the steps behind him. The porch looked one strong wind away from becoming kindling. It creaked underneath my feet. Glancing around, I noted broken glass underneath a boarded-up window. Wow. I understood not wanting to room at the main house where the entire coven could watch your every move, but this seemed a bit excessive.
Drew knocked, and my stomach twisted as we waited for an answer.
“Maybe he’s not home,” I said way too hopefully.
“So, what? Now you drove here for nothing?” Drew huffed. “No way.”
I started to remind Drew this place had been on our way into town where Drew was headed anyway. A loud crack from the backyard stopped me.
“What was that?” I asked.
“Don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
I hurried around the side of the cabin on Drew’s heels. At this point, no part of me cared whether the lupin showed up for today’s appointment. But Drew nosing around a lupin’s territory might not end well for anyone. My hands tingled with the magic that rose up in response to my anxiety. I shoved it back as I rounded the corner.
At the sight of the male figure, I stopped and stared.
He was shirtless and gripping an axe that he brought down against the log set before him.
He split the log and then set the axe aside long enough to stack the cut pieces and retrieve the next one.
I watched as the thick muscles along his back and arms moved with him. And some feeling, long-buried, came to life inside me.
“Hey,” Drew called out.
The figure whirled, and my breath caught.
His brown hair was long, almost to his chin, and wet at the ends. His bared chest was chiseled to hardened perfection right down to the corded muscles in his arms that moved as he brought the axe up and propped it on his shoulder. Even from here, I could see that every inch of his exposed skin was slick with sweat, and I had to bite my tongue to keep it from trying to force me to walk right over there and lick him.
Golden-brown eyes assessed Drew first then me.
When our gazes met, the oxygen left my lungs, and I found myself frozen where I stood. Time seemed to fold in on itself. I’d never once in my life been so lost in the presence of a guy. But now—the whole world could have ended, and all I’d know is what it felt like to be studied by the pair of haunted brown eyes standing in front of me.
“Yo, lupin,” Drew called, snapping me out of it. “You ignore all your guests, or are we just special?”
He tore his eyes from me and looked over at my brother. Whatever calm had kept him still before was gone. “Who are you?”
His voice was dark and rich—and more than a little hostile.
“I’m Drew. This is Chloe. You Silas?”
“Yeah. So what?”
He started forward.
Drew crossed his arms and slid over so he was standing slightly in front of me. I rolled my eyes.
“She’s here to tutor you,” Drew said pointedly. “Maybe you want to put on a shirt.”
Silas glanced at me again. Without a word, he doubled back and grabbed the t-shirt he’d tossed beside the pile of wood he’d been chopping.
Drew looked over at me. “You sure you’re up for this?”
“If you don’t leave now, I’m going to call Lydia and tell her you want to get back together.”
“You’re a menace,” he said.
I laughed and shoved him toward the car. “Go.”
“I’ll be back in an hour,” he said with a pointed look behind me.
“I’ll be here,” I said.
He muttered something that sounded like, “You better be,” and then disappeared around the house again. A moment later, the car’s engine hummed to life, and I listened as he drove off. Silas watched me steadily the entire time, but I kept my eyes fastened on the trees instead. Something about his stare felt invasive.
“Your boyfriend’s kind of protective.”
My eyes flicked back to him again. I noted the way his shirt clung to his sweaty skin, and my mouth went dry at the thought of what all that sweat would feel like underneath my hands. Wow, ogling a guy in desperate need of a shower was definitely new for me.
“He’s my brother,” I said, a little too breathless to go unnoticed.
Silas glanced sideways at me. “I’m surprised he left you alone with me. A dangerous lupin.”
“That’s an oxymoron,” I said before I could stop myself.
But instead of reacting to the insult, he said, “I didn’t ask for a tutor.”
“I didn’t ask to tutor you, so I guess we’re even.”
I closed my mouth, wondering where the hell that amount of sarcasm had come from.
“Aren’t you kind of young to be a teacher?”
I straightened. “I’m twenty-one,” I said, not sure that actually helped my case.
“Oh, wow, twenty-one. Apologies. You’re clearly a wizened expert.”
I glared at him. “You’re a dick.”
He snorted. “Babe, that’s the nicest thing any of you have said to me since I arrived.”
“Well, maybe if you tried being a little less of an asshole, people wouldn’t insult you.”
His eyes narrowed. “Oh, right. Kill them with kindness. Sure, I’ll try that. Maybe they’ll only throw eggs instead of bricks through my window—if only I’m nicer.”
I blinked. “Someone threw a brick through your window?”
The broken glass. The boarded window.
“Let’s just say the hexerei welcoming committee doesn’t sleep.”
My temper leaked away. I’d known the coven wouldn’t exactly invite him to hang out… but vandalism? That wasn’t right.
“They shouldn’t have done that,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
He snorted. “Your apology isn’t exactly going to fix my window.”
And just like that, my temper returned. “Well, neither is you being a smartass. Look, do you want the help or not?”
“Hmm. Well, since this conversation began, you’ve called me a dick, an asshole, and a smartass. So, let’s go with not.”
I turned on my heel and marched as far as the front yard before I remembered Drew had the car.
“Ugh.” I groaned and turned back to find the hottie asshole watching me with a smug-ass grin.
“Problem?” he asked.
“Just you.” I turned my back on him and headed for the road. I could think of worse things than walking home. Like staying here with a smartass lupin like him.