As a special preview of Untamed, available 10/17/23, I have posted the prologue on this hidden page. enjoy.
Curtis couldn’t catch his breath. He’d been running through a strange jungle all night, and for the life of him couldn’t remember how he’d gotten there. His right shoulder had gone numb and he couldn’t lift his arm after taking a bullet when he’d last stopped for a rest.
As a werg, he could see in the dark and run faster than those bastards chasing him, even with his one dead arm. It was probably the only reason he was still alive. There were at least three of them. From what he could tell, two men and a woman. When they got too close he could smell their gunpowder.
After finally losing their scent, he leaned against a tree for another rest and evaluated his wounded shoulder. At least the bleeding had slowed.
His heart pounded into his skull as he gasped for air, a high-pitched sound accompanying every labored breath. Why were they trying to kill him? Where was he?
Exhausted, he staggered away from the tree and caught another scent, this one of meat and blood. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d eaten. Maybe that was why he was so weak.
He locked on to the fresh scent, momentarily forgetting the chase, and followed it to another tree. A small animal carcass, maybe a squirrel, dangled from a rope. He licked his dry lips and looked around. Somewhere deep down he might have realized it could be a trap, but his thoughts were a fuzzy mess.
He moved forward, stepping onto a small pile of leaves. Something clanked at his feet an instant before flesh-ripping pain rocketed up his leg. His eyes darted down to the jaws of a trap clamped around his shin, metal teeth embedded in his bone. He yanked his leg back, but a chain fastened to the trap went taut with a jolt and doubled his pain. He grabbed the metal jaws, ignoring the agony it caused, and thrashed and pulled until his good arm felt made of lead and his lungs couldn’t suck in air fast enough. He lunged for his lower leg, about to gnaw it off.
“There you are.”
Curtis spun around with his teeth bared.
A lone man stood holding a rifle and wearing an evil grin. “You did real good outlasting the others. You gave me quite the chase.”
The leaves rustled to the man’s left, and another man stepped out of the brush. “This one’s mine, Gary.”
“Heh. Not this time, Carson. I got to him first. These are my points.”
“We were both tracking him. It was my bullet that wounded him and slowed him down.”
“Yeah, but then you lost him,” Gary snapped. “I found his trail.” His voice rose. “You were just following me.”
Carson held up his hands. “Okay, okay, okay. Calm down. How ’bout we share these points? Does that sound okay?”
Gary made a strained face and then nodded.
“Good,” Carson said. “Let’s hurry before Jody finds us. She’s too close to me on points as it is. I can’t afford to share this one with her.”
Gary snickered and shook his head. “You two have got to be the most competitive couple I’ve ever met.”
Carson snorted. “Probably. But that’s why I love her so much.” He tilted his head as he looked at Curtis. “You think Mr. Salvatore will be mad about the damage from the trap?”
Gary leaned forward for a better view. “Nah. It’s not too bad. They can stitch it up and hide it.”
“Yeah, you’re probably right. So, are you taking the shot, or am I?”
Gary grinned again. “If you don’t mind, I’d love to.” As Carson stepped back to watch, Gary lifted his rifle.
Curtis lunged at them in a rage, but the trap stopped him just out of reach. He growled and snapped his teeth. Gary’s rifle bounced slightly.
Curtis barely heard the pop over the roar of his own bloodlust, but he felt the impact to his chest and his back hitting the ground.
The two men approached cautiously and hovered over him as he lay frozen and helpless. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to kill them; he just couldn’t find any strength to move. A burning pain filled his throat even as a chill rushed through his body.
The two men stood over him and watched as the night faded into absolute blackness. He heard their voices in the dark.
“He still looks good enough, don’t you think?” Gary asked.
“Yeah. Mr. Salvatore will be pleased,” Carson answered. “This one’ll be the perfect display for his foyer.”
Gary grunted. “That Italian bastard’s one sick puppy, huh?”
“Heh. I guess. This was the toughest hunt we’ve had this year. Pietro really put us in handcuffs not letting us use explosives.”
“What? Did you wanna blow the hell out of him?”
“I don’t know. Maybe. I didn’t bring grenades for nothing.”
They were quiet for a moment before Carson said, “Hey, have you seen his new pets yet? Those winged thingies?”
“Oh yeah. I’ve heard they’re even more violent than these wergs.”
“That’s what I’ve heard, too.”
Someone nudged Curtis with his foot.
“It looks like he’s about done,” Gary said. “I’ll call for the cart. Why don’t you finish it? I hate watching them suffer so much.”
“You old softie.” Something cold and sharp touched Curtis’s neck. “They’ll sew this up, too, right?”
Curtis didn’t hear an answer. Blood poured over his fur around his neck. What little air he had been getting into his lungs disappeared, replaced by gurgling emptiness. He fought desperately to get it back. He didn’t want to die.
The two men laughed and joked, their voices growing distant like they were moving toward the opposite end of a long tunnel.
“That’ll do it,” Gary said. He said something else, but Curtis was beyond hearing.