Shattered Circle Excerpt

Excerpt from Shattered Circle:


The dry leaves crunch beneath my feet as I pace back and forth, anxiously searching for headlights in the distance. I glance at my watch for the hundredth time: 12:15. Where is Gray?

Fuller Park is a huge, with acres of forest trails, picnic sites, and campgrounds. It didn’t occur to me until after I got home that we didn’t specify a particular place to meet, so I decide to wait for Gray in the first parking lot, directly off the main road leading in. From this vantage point, I should be able to see any passing cars.

I hear a rumble of an engine, and peer into the darkness. The sound gets closer, but I don’t see any lights on the road. Squinting in the darkness, I see a dark shape slowly moving up the trail. The headlights are off, but as it nears, I recognize the massive black Hummer. As it creeps closer, I dart off toward the road. The car slows even more, and I see an arm dangling out of the open window. 

“Hey,” I yell, hoping I’m close enough for him to hear. He stops the car and sticks his head out of the window, and then turns into the lot, parking next to my car.

“I wasn’t sure you’d be able to find me,” I tell him as he climbs out. “I don’t have your number, so I couldn’t tell you where to meet me.”

“I’m a werewolf,” he smirks. “Of course I’d be able to find you.” At my puzzled expression, he taps his nose. “Better than a bloodhound.”

“You were planning on sniffing me out like a dog?” I raise my eyebrows.

“If you’ve got it, use it.”

I rub my hands briskly on my arms. I’ve been pacing out here for the last fifteen minutes, and although I wore my warmest sweater, I’m still numb with cold.

“Here,” Gray says, handing me his leather jacket.

“What about you?” I ask, scrambling into the jacket, still warm with his body heat.

“I’m fine.” Then half his mouth lifts in a smirk. “If I get cold, I have you to keep me warm.”

“Like that’ll happen,” I scoff.

Moya Luna, you wound me.”

“Why do you keep saying that?” I ask him seriously. “It means ‘my moon’ in Russian, right? Why do you keep calling me that?”

He leans back against his Hummer, crossing his arms in front of his massive chest. “It seems appropriate. I’m drawn to you the way wolves are drawn to the moon.”

I sigh. “Forget it. I don’t know why I’d expect a serious answer from you.”

“You don’t think I’m serious?” He raises one eyebrow at me.

I just shake my head. “That’s not what I want to talk about anyway.”

He drops his eyes and purses his lips. "Yeah, about that..."

"What?" I ask sharply. He’d better not tell me he’s changed his mind. 

"Well, I could get in a lot of trouble for answering your questions...”

"And you want something in return?" I guess.

“You could say that,” he drawls.

Figures he wouldn’t tell me something for nothing. “Alright, what do you want?” 

“Well, I’m still new in town and all, and there is a party going on this Friday at Chuck Benson’s house...” he trails off, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

“You want me to go to a party with you?”

“Well I can’t show up alone!” He says with mock indignation.

“Riiiight. And you don’t have anyone else to ask? What about Olivia, or even Kayla. I’m sure she’d be thrilled to go with you.”

“Ah,” he smiles. “But I don’t want to go with Olivia or Kayla.”

“And why do you want to go with me?” I narrow my eyes at him in suspicion. He always has an ulterior motive.

“Well, you’re all anyone around here can talk about. Showing up with you would score me major street cred.”

I laugh. “‘Street cred’? What, are you from a 1980’s sitcom?”

He grins, showing all of his teeth.

“And if you’ve listened to anything anyone around here has said about me, you’ll know that hanging out with the ‘crazy chic’ is likely to detractpoints from your reputation, not add them.”

“Maybe I like crazy.”

“And maybe you have a hidden agenda.” I cross my arms and look at him pointedly.

“Alright, you got me.” He throws his hands up in defeat. “It might have alittle bit to do with the fact that Madelyn and Vasily asked me to keep an eye on you, just until we can get you out of town.”

My stomach sinks. “Another babysitter. Great.”

“ ‘Babysitter’ is such an ugly word.” He wrinkles his nose and leans in toward me. “Why don’t you think of me as your escort instead?”

“Pimping yourself out, huh? I’m not sure I can afford you.”

“For you, Moya Luna, I’m free of charge.”

“Lucky me...”

“So do we have a deal then?”

“I go to this party with you, and you’ll answer all my questions?”

“I’ll answer whatever I can, though I don’t know all that much,” he answers cautiously.

I purse my lips, thinking it over. “Deal.” I hold my hand out for him to shake.

He wraps his large hand around my much smaller one, the warmth of his skin sending goose bumps up my arm. I take my hand back hastily.

“But this isn’t a date,” I warn. “Just friends, got it?”

“Whatever you say,” he smirks.

I quickly change the subject. “So, about my mom: why did she leave Madelyn’s coven?”

“What were you told?” He cocks his head curiously.

“Well, Caroline told me she was running from the pack - from your pack,” I tell him. “And my father said that Madelyn didn’t approve of her marrying him, so she left and they never talked again.”

“They’re both partly right,” he hedges. “Your grandmother didn’t approve of Jack, and your mom was hiding from us; well, not just us, but Madelyn as well. But not for the reasons you think...”

“So why then?”

“Elizabeth...” he hesitates.

“Just tell me, Gray.”

“Your mom was engaged to someone else.”

“She WHAT? When? Who?” My mind whirls with possibilities.

He hesitates a moment before answering. “To Vasily…”

“Vasily? And she just left him? Ran away with my dad?” I ask, appalled.

“It’s more complicated than that...” He shifts his weight to his other leg and drapes an arm around me, pulling me up to his side.

I stiffen. “Um, what are you doing?”

“You’re shivering,” he answers, keeping his arm wrapped around me. “What was I saying again?”

I try to pull away from him, but he’s too strong for me to budge. I am warmer with the heat radiating off his body, so I stop struggling after a moment and sigh. “You were saying my mom left another guy at the altar,” I say, unable to disguise the disapproval in my voice.

“Oh yeah. Well, she didn’t exactly leave him at the altar... It was an arranged marriage,” he says, dropping his eyes.

“Arranged? By who?”

“Nikolay and Madelyn, who else?”

“My grandmother tried to force my mom to marry someone she didn’t want?”

He shakes his head in frustration. “It wasn’t like that. They wanted to join the coven and pack; Elizabeth was the strongest witch, and Vasily the strongest were’, after Nikolay and Madelyn, of course.”

“And that makes it okay?” I shake my head in disgust, looking out into the night.

I feel him shrug next to me. “That’s how it’s done in the pack. If our Alpha wants an alliance, he arranges a mating.”

“Mating?”

He gives me a half smile. “Yeah, werewolf version of marriage.”

“And you have no say in it?”

“No, we’re expected to do what’s in the best interest of the pack.” Seeing my horrified expression, he chuckles. “Arranged matings don’t happen very often; they’re mostly outdated. It’s only enforced under extreme circumstances.”

“It happened to my mother.”

“And that was almost twenty years ago. Anyway,” he shrugs. “That’s all I know. Your mom didn’t want to marry Vasily, so she ran away with that human.”

That human is my father,” I reply, bristling.

He opens his mouth, then closes it again. “Right.”

We stand in silence for a few moments, listening to the wind whisper through the trees.

“So, about that party...” Gray says teasingly. “Is your boyfriend gonna be jealous when you show up with me?”

I was just beginning to relax, but I stiffen once again. “I told you, Caiden’s not my boyfriend.”

“You sure about that?” He looks down at me cocking his head.

“Trust me, he’s made himself perfectly clear.”

He narrows his eyes at me in speculation. “Huh. So he ended it?” He shakes his head. “Idiot. Lucky for me though.” He grins.

“I don’t want to talk about this.” I shrug his arm off me, and his time he lets me go.

“So I guess that explains your lack of a chaperone,” he says, ignoring me. “I was shocked to see you here alone.”

“He thinks I’m at Olivia’s.”

“You mean he ordered you to stay at Olivia’s?” When I don’t say anything, he smirks. “Yeah, that’s what I thought. I have to say, I’m surprised you put up with him as long as you did, always having him tell you what to do...” He shudders. “It would’ve driven me crazy.”

“He just didn’t want to see me get hurt,” I say defensively.

“Or he wanted to control you.”

“We’re done talking about this.”

“Although, to be fair, if I’d known you were showing up here alone, I would’ve suggested that I pick you up instead. Probably not a good idea to wander around the woods alone right now, what with Caroline and James, not to mention that asshole from your coven. Richard, was it?”

I nod my head.

“Boy, you sure know how to make friends...”

“It must be my charming personality.”

“Yeah, must be. Alright, you’re freezing, time to go.”

“Wait, one more question,” I say, putting a hand on his arm to halt him.

“Yes?”

“Do you really think James is dangerous? You think he has it out for me?”

He looks into my eyes, his face suddenly serious. “Yeah, I do. I think any pack except Silver Ridge is going to go after you.”

I look down, debating whether I should tell him about James’ earlier visit to my house.

“You should really consider coming out to Ashwood Creek,” he says, reaching out and tipping my chin up to look him in the eyes. “Even if it’s only for a little while. We can keep you safe while Madelyn teaches you to control your abilities. Once you can protect yourself, you won’t have to worry about James or Caroline, or anyone else.”

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