A Young Werewolf Learns The Rules by Annabeth Leong
Nephylim has kindly agreed to host the first stop on my blog tour for my werewolf novella, Not His Territory. I figured I'd honor this blog's flash fiction tradition. Here's a short piece I wrote especially for this occasion, starring a much younger version of the hero from the book.
Raul Silva clenched his fists and strode toward the closet at the top of staircase. He didn't relish the thought of spending hours in the dark inside it, sweating as his body warmed the tiny space and the Change threatened to take him over. He liked unintended Changes even less.
A fine layer of fur had already sprouted along the backs of his hands. Raul moved faster. Changing into a wolf made him feel graceful and strong, athletic and precise. He'd had a few heady nights of running under the moon, jumping and twisting for the sheer joy of it. But every time he'd given in, the feral delight of it seemed suspect and tawdry.
In the years since puberty, he'd learned to control his transformations to wolf without too much trouble, to keep his emotions carefully regulated, especially when the moon hung low and heavy in the sky. By 18, he'd gotten good enough that he only had to give in to his inner wolf a few times a year, happily keeping control on nights when others howled with the madness of a beast nature.
This skill abandoned him when he came to live in this house with a group of other young shifters. The Change turned out to be contagious, hard to resist when someone else had already given in, and harder still if moon fever threatened or blood hung in the air. At the house, it almost always seemed to be all three. It didn't help that the others had caught on to his preference for avoiding the Change. They liked to taunt him, provoking the temper that he already had to struggle to control.
Raul gained the closet. He shoved a mess of musty clothes aside and slipped in, slamming the door shut behind him. He curled into the back corner with his arms around his knees. Wild cries from the others rose in the distance. He wished the closet would shut out more of the sounds and smells.
Raul closed his eyes, breathed deeply, and focused on being human. He filled his mind with television and sports scores and the names of foreign countries, using mundane drivel to keep at bay all intoxicating images of woods and wet earth and sharp claws.
He kept his head more easily than normal, and after a few puzzled moments, he realized the animal noises had stopped. Raul froze. He didn't feel too connected to the others, but the deep weirdness of their sudden silence unnerved him.
Measured footsteps sounded on the staircase. Before Raul could react, the closet door was flung open. A man with steel-gray hair leaned into the closet and poked Raul in the chest with a slim finger. "Come out of there, son. We need to ask you some questions."
Raul cringed. He had never wanted to answer questions — he preferred to follow rules and never inspire curiosity.
"Out now," the man said. The natural authority in his voice made it impossible to disobey.
Raul crept out of the closet and faced the man. His gangly limbs made him nearly the other's equal in height, but he could not match the new arrival's poise. Not even a wrinkle marred his blue-gray suit. Raul would have taken him for human if not for the sharp point of his nose and the inhuman acuity of his gaze.
"Why aren't you running wild like the rest of your friends?"
Raul shrugged. "I don't like the way it feels, sir."
The man nodded approvingly, though Raul couldn't tell if he liked being called "sir" or appreciated Raul's broader sentiment. "We're going to have to take them in for violating Werewolf Council law. We might do something different with you. Have you heard of the Council?"
The shifters in the house were the only others he'd ever met. Raul shook his head.
"We keep order in werewolf society. We're all beasts, son. We need rules to keep us civilized. More rules than humans need, and more strictly enforced. We can't afford mistakes the way normal people can."
Raul nodded. He'd already felt the rush that came from growing fangs when he got angry. He feared it. He understood the man.
"Do you have parents, son?"
"They said I had to leave when I turned 18."
"You didn't question that?"
"No, sir. That was the rule."
The man nodded again. "Stop clenching your fists. You're going to shred your palms."
"My name is Gabriel," the man said. "The smart thing for a smart young man like yourself would be to come with me and get introduced to the Council. We've got plenty of work for a person who understands the importance of proper procedure."
Raul relaxed, giving in easily to Gabriel's authority. Here, for the first time in his life, stood the promise of a solution, a way out of the unruly thoughts and urges that formed his inner wolf. Gabriel turned sharply on one heel and walked down the stairs, not looking back to make sure Raul followed him. For his part, Raul left the house and all its wildness behind without hesitation. It would be years before he questioned the decision or wondered about the lovely, savage power he worked so hard to avoid.
Not His Territory picks up many years later, when Raul is an investigator for the Montana State Werewolf Council. In the years since this story takes place, his relationship with Gabriel has grown a lot more tense, and it's become more difficult to resist exploring the feelings he's held back for so long.
After a devastating encounter with an illegally shifted werewolf, a wounded Raul Silva slumps on Chandra Williams’s doorstep, begging for refuge. As an investigator for the legalistic Werewolf Council, Raul’s been sent to look into instability in the local pack. Chandra’s presence makes him want to succeed at his mission for personal — not professional — reasons.
The Werewolf Council disapproves. Chandra is strictly off-limits for Raul according to both the traditions and laws of the werewolves. But after a life devoted to upholding principles, Raul’s instincts and desires are boiling to the surface. Can Raul resist Chandra, or will he break with everything he stands for to pursue a woman who is not his territory?
Annabeth Leong has written romance and erotica of many flavors -- dark, kinky, vanilla, straight, lesbian, bi, and menage. In addition to Not His Territory, Breathless Press published her werewolf story, “The Arcadian Cure,” in its Ravaged anthology. She particularly enjoys playing off myth, legend, fairy tales, and fantastic history. She believes passionately in freedom of speech, rights for people of all sexual orientations, and freedom of religion. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island, blogs at Annabeth Leong Blog, and tweets @AnnabethLeong
Thanks for reading! I'm giving away a PDF copy of Not His Territory to one reader of this post. Simply leave a comment answering the following question:
Are you the type who follows rules?
You have until Dec. 3 to respond. Please leave your email address in the BODY of the comment, so I can contact the winner. For more chances to win, check out the other stops on my tour: Writemarket - Annabeth Leong Blog Tour