Exclusive Excerpt from Charley’s Christmas Wolf by C.D. Gorri PROLOGUE St. Lucia’s Day – December 12th He circled the woods once more. His black coat gleamed in the silver moonlight as powerful legs carried him quickly through the frozen terrain. The battle was finished. Another few months of peace and prosperity won together with his allies. All it cost was the blood and sweat of his Pack. He thought of the young Wolf who had asked for his help. She was tenacious and brave. This was the first time in a hundred years such alliances had been made. He knew he had made the right decision for his Pack. The only way to go into the future was to move forward. Wasn’t that what his father had always said? He tasted blood on the air and tensed. Some of it he recognized. It belonged to his Wolves. But they were whole. That was all that mattered. The black Wolf reached out with his mind and felt his Packmates’ injuries. No casualties. The bloodstained ice that covered the forest floor and the sulfuric stink of dark magic invaded his nostrils. He snarled and quickened his pace. For a moment or two the Dark Witches had almost had them. But they had triumphed. The others were gone. Only his Pack remained. They waited for him. Their Alpha. He slowed down as he entered the wooded enclosure. Pride vibrated in his very being. These Wolves were brave, fierce, and loyal. As his Guard moved to flank him, Rafe Maccon threw back his head and loosed an ear-piercing howl. It spoke of loss, of triumph, of the end of an era and the start of a new one. This had been his last battle as a warrior. The time had come for him to fully assume his rightful position as Pack Alpha. His father’s death years ago should have triggered that leap in his status, but he had denied his birthright for as long as he could. He had chosen to fight with his Wolves instead. But the time had come for him to lead them. According to the local White Witches of the Coven Realta, the prophecy had already begun. He and his Wolves needed to ready themselves for whatever came next. He signaled to his Beta and like always, he immediately understood what was needed of him. Rafe watched him leave with a few select Wolves then he surveyed his Packmates. They stood in front of him, each one muscular and strong with varying shades of fur ranging from palest white, tawnies, reds, and browns to his own midnight black coat. One by one, they lowered themselves on their haunches, lupine heads bowed. He had earned their respect before, but tonight he had gained their undying trust. Now, he had to keep it. CHAPTER 1 Thunder clapped overhead. A mix of hail and rain began to pour from the quickly darkening skies. The street lights flickered and the tiny overhead shelter at the bus stop gave no protection whatsoever from Mother Nature’s latest onslaught. “Not now! Come on!” Charley cried. She huddled into the thick pink cardigan she wore over her one good dress. It was a wool blend which was bound to get ruined in this weather. She had instantly fallen in love with the way it alternately hugged and flowed around her curvaceous body. She especially loved the scalloped hemline. It reminded her of classic movie stars like Hepburn and Taylor. She used to watch them all the time with her grandfather. She smiled as she looked down at the outfit. The pale ivory suited her dark eyes and hair. The weather was definitely going to ruin it. And on her meager salary it would be months before she could replace it. She looked down at her matching heels and stomped her foot as puddles began to form on the uneven concrete sidewalk. Great! That’s just perfect! It just wasn’t her day, or her year for that matter. It was almost Christmas and the nutty weather still hadn’t made up its mind what season it was. One day it was in the 90s and the next the thermometer had dropped to the low 30s. The past few months had been very unusual for the typically predictable New Jersey climate. Charley didn’t know what to make of it. She was sure it was because of the holes in the Ozone or global warming, melting snowcaps, and the cattle crisis. Every newsfeed had someone to blame, but not much was being done about finding a solution. She shook her head, thoughts like that were better off left to scientists and people who could actually make a difference. Charley was just trying to make it through a date. Well, a blind date that she didn’t even want to go on. And she was already late for it because her boss at Junior’s Famous Italian Deli, the third “Junior” as it were, just had to make her clean all the slicing machines and the display cases twice that day! Not to mention he had her mop the entire floor, flip the chairs, hose down all the rubber mats, secure the freezers and refrigerators, and lastly, Windex the tall storefront windows inside and out! Ugh. Only then did he let her leave. And the rat hadn’t even paid her. The deli would be closed for the next six weeks. Junior and his family would be in Italy to oversee maintenance work on his family’s villa. Wasn’t that nice for him? Charley had to bite her tongue all day from telling her boss what she really thought of her forced, not to mention unpaid, vacation. She barely had enough time to get to her apartment, shower, and change before the bus was scheduled to arrive. Dinner had better be worth it! A black van pulled over across the street and idled. Lucky bastard! Charley sighed as she gave it a brief look. The van had tinted windows and chrome finishes. From where she stood, the engine purred. Not the usual racket from the delivery vans she dealt with at the deli. Too nice for this neighborhood, she thought. Heat probably works too. She tried not to stare at the driver. From what she could see, he was huge and rough looking. And boy, was he looking at her. Pervert! Yeah, have a good look, buddy! She thought as she tugged her sweater closer to her body. She tried in vain to cover her ample assets. No doubt they were clearly revealed through her soaked dress. The bus stop provided very little protection indeed. She turned her head towards the street, as if just looking could somehow make her bus appear. No such luck. The van remained across the street unmoving, creepy driver and all. Charley shuddered. There was no traffic, foot or car, on the usually crowded Jersey City intersection. It was cold, wet, and dark and she was all alone. She dug in her purse for her cell phone just as lightning lit up the sky. It was followed by the booming sound of thunder and Charley practically jumped out of her shoes. The distraction was enough that she didn’t see the van pop a u-ey and pull to a stop right alongside her. She didn’t hear the door open or see the man with the blonde spiked hair exit the vehicle. He moved faster than any man should be able to and grabbed her from behind. Charley’s heart pounded as a huge hand clamped down tightly over her mouth. She struggled and tried to scream. Cold fear ran down her spine as he dragged her to the now open side door. “Sorry about this,” a deep voice said, and he scooped her up and sat down with her on his lap. She tried squirming, but arms like iron held her still. “Why this one? I thought the blonde was better?” said a rough voice to her right. She struggled to turn her head but got nowhere. “No way, dude, he doesn’t even like blondes. Not since Stephie. You remember her, that blonde viper was a backstabbing little bit-,” said another male voice coming from the front seat. “Shut up guys! Okay hon, I’m going to take my hand off your mouth and we’re going to ask some questions, alright? Nod if you understand.” Charley nodded. She was scared out of her mind, but she wouldn’t go down quietly. She waited for him to release her. As soon as he lifted his hand, she opened her mouth and screamed as loud as she could. She threw her head back directly into the nose of her captor. “Shit! I’m bleeding! Hold her, dammit! No, don’t hurt her, get the rag! The rag! Shit!” Charley dove for the door handle, but the stupid thing was locked. She fumbled for a second, but it was too late. Large hands grabbed her and before she knew it, she was in a grip even stronger than before. Angry tears streamed down her face. “Let go of me, you perverts! Let me go!!” She continued to try and twist out of her captor’s grasp, just then one of them held a rag over her nose and mouth. Then it was goodbye, Charley. Literally. Sometime later. “Dude, look!” “Get ready.” “Hey, she’s coming around.” The sound of deep voices pounded inside of her aching head. Charley struggled to open her eyes. What happened? Where am I? Her thoughts were all jumbled and confused. She felt awful, like she did after taking a nap when she had a really bad headache. Charley sprang up from her prone position. That was a mistake. She grabbed her head. It felt like it was going to explode. She looked down at her lap and saw she was wrapped up in a way too big, green flannel robe. And, yup, except for her panties, she was naked underneath. “Oh, shit. Here she goes,” a resigned voice said. Charley opened her eyes and took in the mountain sized men surrounding her. A split second passed before she opened her mouth and screamed. “Aghhh! Who the hell are you people? Oh my God, I’ve been kidnapped!” “Now, now, take it easy,” one of them stepped closer and Charley screamed again and flung a pillow at him. “Back up, buddy! Okay, six huge men, well that one looks like a baby,” Charley spoke to herself, but the one she called a baby stiffened. “Hey, I’m twenty!” “Wait! Seven! There’s seven of you? 1, 2, 3, 4 ,5, 6 and 7! Okay, don’t move,” Charley closed her eyes, her mind trying frantically to figure out what the heck was going on. Seven men had abducted her and brought her to a house. A nice house actually. She opened her eyes again and from her place on a rather huge bed she looked at her surroundings. A soft down-comforter and pillows in various shades of blue covered the bed, navy and beige curtains hung from large windows, the floors were natural stone, and a huge fireplace crackled cheerfully in the corner. Not so bad, considering she was a prisoner! “What are you going to do with me? Why am I here? Where are my clothes? Why did you-” “Wait, let me explain-” “Oh my God, you’re going to kill me, aren’t you?!,” Charley looked around, but the only thing she could get her hands on were more pillows. Not really helpful when trying to fight off giant kidnappers. “We’re not going to hurt you, okay. None of us are even gonna touch you,” said blonde-spike guy. He had two wads of cotton stuffed up his bloody nose. Aha, the grabber! Charley focused on him. Oddly there was no bruising on his face or around his cotton stuffed nose. And she was sure she had broken it. “You think I’m going to trust you? You sick pervert! If you’re not gonna kill me what are you going to do, huh, rape me? Keep me chained up? Cut me up? Cook me?” “Jesus, lady, what do you think we are? Animals?” laughter followed. Charley turned her head. She squinted her eyes as she recognized the six-foot plus man with long, brown hair and his equally long beard. “Wait a second, I know you! You come in every Thursday for the roast beef and fresh mozzarella!” “Heck yeah! Best sandwich in a hundred miles,” he nodded and grabbed a turkey leg off a plate. He shoved the entire leg in his mouth and pull out the bone clean. At least he chewed with his mouth closed. “Alright, if you’re not going to hurt me, then just let me go. I swear I won’t tell anybody about this stupid little prank. I promise,” Charley knew it wasn’t likely, but hey, worth a try. “Look, we’re sorry about all this, but we need you,” the youngest of the bunch spoke. “For what?” her voice came out low and squeaky, but she didn’t flinch. “For our Alpha.” “What are you guys, like, dogs or something?” “No. We’re Wolves,” Spikey smiled at her, bloody cotton and all. She wondered if his gleaming teeth didn’t grow a bit. “Uh huh. Okay, I need to be going now.” “You can’t go,” beard boy spoke up. He seemed sad, but serious all the same. “Why not? Look, you guys are crazy. I need to leave. I really need to leave, please.” “Just imagine for a second that you believe us, okay? We really are Werewolves, and our Alpha is about to be usurped by this real assho- not nice guy. You see, according to our laws an Alpha can only rule absolutely when he is mated. Understand? He needs a mate in order to take his legitimate place as Alpha and you’re it. Surprise!” Charley stood up. Seven pairs of eyes watched her. There was beard guy; spikey bloody nose boy; the teenager; a glowering male who was thinner than the rest and meaner looking; the one talking now who had short sandy blonde hair; and two giants who sported identical killer grins and shocking red hair. And they all believed they were Werewolves. Oh crap. “You’re all crazy!” Click here to buy your copy!