I’m always fascinated by the editing process, by how many revisions an author’s work goes through before it’s ready for the public. I decided to share excerpts of a work in process with my newsletter subscribers over the last couple of months, from my novella Fur and Fury.
This is the initial rough draft of the first two chapters I shared. Then, I posted this excerpt, the updated/revised/editedfirst four chapters, in December.
Now Fur and Fury is live! You can read the first several chapters with the Amazon Look Inside previewer (the link will open a new page, directly in the previewer). Lust in Lace, the fifth volume of the LUST anthology, was published on January 11, 2017.
Fur and Fury ©2016 by Devi Ansevi
The insistent bleat of the alarm clock woke him out of the dream. He’d thrown the sheet off at some point. The cheap motel had promised free cable and heated rooms, which turned out to be shitty ‘80s porn and malfunctioning heaters with no in-room climate control. Benton had stripped down to skin and still his balls ran with sweat.
Not that his dick cared this morning. Bring on the heat, bitches. He was at full mast, the tip wet with precum. He groaned and gripped himself, already jerking off as he reached for the alarm.
Took half a dozen strokes, though his palm was a piss-poor substitute for Liz’s hot, wet pussy. Must be dreaming about her because he’d see her tomorrow. That was going to be awkward. He only had to get through three days, then he’d be gone again.
Benton used sweat-sodden sheets to clean himself and rolled out of bed, dropping to the floor for his morning routine of stretches, sit-ups, push-ups, and back stretches. His wolf could fix almost anything, but he couldn’t shift if his back went out in the middle of a job. Easier to work his core.
By the time he finished, sweat poured off his face, chest, and back. Goddamn if it wasn’t slicking his ass cheeks. A cold shower had never sounded so good.
He was about to step in the rust-stained shower stall when a ska punk version of Jingle Bells assaulted his ears. Loki’s ringtone. Benton debated ignoring it, but if this call was to do with his sister… He grabbed the phone from the bedside table with a growl and swiped to answer.
“Ready to see your sister? She’s looking forward to a vacation.”
Benton’s wolf didn’t care if Loki was a god, or that he’d supposedly sired a giant wolf named Fenrir. Something about the pitch and tone of that sneering voice raised his hackles.
“Not a morning person? Ah, well. I’ll leave you to your cold shower and instant coffee. See you tomorrow.”
Benton cut off the hyena-like chuckle by hitting the End button and slung the phone on the bathroom counter. How’d that creepy bastard know he was taking a cold shower?
Benton unfolded himself from the 4×4 and looked around the half-empty parking lot. He scrounged in the glove compartment for cash to pay for a ticket and put on his sunglasses. Loki probably didn’t use anything like a car to get there. Transportation beam? Teleportation? Whatever. Asshole thought he was funny, setting the pickup at the penguin exhibit in the Jacksonville Zoo.
The teenager at the ticket booth tried to flirt. Probably bored out of her skull and used to seeing retired folks and moms with strollers this early in the morning. Whatever, she was fifty percent too innocent and a hundred percent too human. Benton handed over exact change and grunted a thanks, checked the map and went through the entrance, loping toward the Magellanic penguins.
Loki was already there, and he had two people with him, both women. Benton checked and raised an eyebrow at the hot chick on Loki’s right. Just as tall, cover model elegant, with odd silver hair that didn’t match her young face. Decked out in Renaissance clothing, and looking miserable. Another frost giant? If she’d come from Jotunheim, this place was probably hot as hell for her.
The other woman—the girl—was Olga. The reason he’d lived out of a backpack the last year, the reason his mom’s health had taken a nosedive. Maybe the girl had grown up over the last year, and wouldn’t break his mom’s heart again.
Not likely. Screw that whole ‘glass half empty’ thing, life had taught him that most glasses were dust-dry.
“Benton,” Loki called. “Glad you could join us. Did you know the zoo hatched its first baby Magellanic chicks in 2015? Grateful for being safe in captivity, I’m sure. Why, when Sigyn heard I’d be here, she had to come along. Loves babies, don’t you, my sweet?”
Sigyn? Wow. That meant the bundled-up woman must be Loki’s legendary wife. All this gods-and-demons stuff was mind bending.
Benton nodded politely. “Good to meet you.”
“You, as well, Benton the Werewolf.”
“Ah, ma’am, we don’t talk about that in public.”
He shuffled his feet, feeling uncomfortable at correcting a woman who must be hundreds—thousands?—of years old. She looked mid-twenties, but her bearing and her eyes said she’d been around before the first humans figured out fire.
“My apologies. I do not know the last name by which to address you.”
“Benton Havers, ma’am.” He dipped a head at her, then looked at Olga. “Hey, kid, good to see you. You doin’ okay?”
She rolled her eyes at him. “Yeah. Thanks for getting me out of Purgatory.”
“For three days,” Loki reminded. “Same time, same place, on Monday.”
“You said that already. Four times on the way here.” Another eye-roll from Olga.
“It bears repeating, my dear. If you’re not here, Benton takes your place.” Loki slapped Benton on the back and gave him a toothy smile. “I have every faith in you both, of course.”
His wolf tried to crawl out the other side to get away from Loki’s touch. “Understood. She’ll be here. Anything else?”
“Yes. A tiresome bit of business, but necessary. No yapping about Jotunheim, frost giants, where your sister has been this last twelve months, or mentioning my name.”
“No problem.” Benton started to turn away. Loki made a throat-clearing noise and he stopped.
“Not that I doubt your word, but in case undo persuasion is brought to bear, I think it best to ensure your silence.” In a blur of speed, Loki clamped a hand on Benton’s shoulder and leaned close to whisper in his ear. The words were inaudible, but after he finished, Benton’s head buzzed, morphing from the drone of a fan to the annoying, high-pitched whine of a hundred mosquitoes. Shaking his head didn’t stop it.
Loki laughed. “Give it a moment. Your wolf is fighting, but… Ah. There.”
The whining sound cut off and Benton rotated his shoulders, unnerved by the experience. “What was that?”
“A geas,” Loki said. “To prevent you from, as the humans say, spilling the beans.”
“Whatever. Are we done?” And what the hell was a ‘guesh’? He’d have to look it up later.
“All done. Talk soon,” Loki said, and swept an arm about his wife’s shoulders. “Let’s go poke fun at animals in captivity.”
Sigyn’s “Be nice, dear” floated back to them as he dragged her away.
Benton turned to Olga. “Ready?”
“Beyond,” she agreed, and stalked toward the exit.
“Olga? Oh my lord, Olga!” Alice Havers screamed and rushed down the sidewalk from the porch. He’d called ahead, letting her know he was on his way, and Mom must have been watching out the front window. She hadn’t moved that fast since Olga vanished.
Mom had grown frailer in the last year. He spared a moment to hope Olga didn’t fuck this visit up three ways to Sunday.
“Your father will be so disappointed he wasn’t here! Why didn’t you tell me you found her?” she scolded Benton, while smothering Olga in a hug. “Are you okay, darling?” She pushed the girl away for a moment to give her the once over. “You’ve lost weight, and you’re pale. What happened to you?”
On the way to the house, they’d agreed on a story. Now she trotted out the fabrication, sounding like someone reading her lines. “My family in Norway wanted me to come back and I didn’t want to leave. I was so confused. I had to get away and decide what to do with my life. I’ve been moving around the United States for the last twelve months, until Benton found me.”
“What? Your family? But—“ Alice looked confused. “I thought they agreed you should stay here through college?”
“They changed their mind. I was upset, and I didn’t want to put you in the middle,” Olga said. “Can we go inside?”
The girl had come to the US when she was sixteen as an exchange student, had moved in with his parents and then, when his mom fell in love with the daughter she’d never had, and Olga fell in love with living in Florida, they’d arranged for her to stay through high school. His parents had sponsored her for college, as well, putting a strain on their finances. Benton had helped where he could, but he resented that Olga didn’t even try to carry her own weight. She’d never held down a job, not even babysitting, as far as he knew.
“Of course,” Alice said, hugging the girl close again. “Of course, what’s wrong with me, keeping you out here in the cold?”
Olga snorted. “This is very warm compared to where I have been.” Benton gave her a sharp look, but Alice didn’t pick up on her comment.
“You’ll have to tell me all the places you’ve gone,” she chattered, leading Olga up the sidewalk. And that easily, the story had been accepted, the girl was forgiven, and all was put right with the world. With a soundless sigh, Benton prowled up the walk behind them, trying not to notice how slowly his mother walked, or how thin her face had grown.
Werewolves had the same life span as normal humans, but they remained hale and hearty for most of that time. They didn’t have to worry about cancer or communicable diseases. His mother was only sixty, but she was human, and her heart condition was getting worse. The threat of her own mortality never seemed to bother Alice, but each time he visited, he logged the changes and worried.
“We’ve kept your room just the same,” Alice said. “Let’s get you settled in. Are you hungry? You were always hungry. I could make you some breakfast.”
“Mom,” Benton said. “Why don’t I call Dad and let him know we’re here?”
“Oh, would you, dear?” She stretched on her tiptoes and he leaned down so she could give him a quick kiss and a pat on the cheek. “Thank you.”
He pulled out his phone and saw a text message from a contact in NYC. Another missed job. That made seven he’d passed up in the last month, damn it. Rent didn’t pay itself.
His dad answered on the second ring. “Benton. Everything okay?”
“Yeah, Mom’s fine,” he answered the unspoken question. “Listen, I found Olga. She’s here.”
After a long pause, his dad said, sounding choked up, “I knew you’d find her.” He cleared his throat. “Alice going ape shit?”
Benton grinned. “Just about.”
“Where the hell was she? You kept this under wraps. How long has this been in the works?”
“Not long. Took some time to retrieve her, and I didn’t want to say anything until I knew if she would be coming back here. Dad, something you should know. I haven’t told Mom. Olga’s only here a few days. She’s gotta leave on Monday.”
His dad gave a heavy sigh. “Fuck. Your mom needs someone to take care of.”
“Get her a puppy.” Benton stalked to the kitchen. “Olga is too old to be babied, anyway.”
“Watch the way you talk about your mother,” Calum Havers growled.
“I’m not disrespecting her,” Benton growled back. “I get it, she’s got the nesting instinct or whatever. Olga doesn’t need mothering anymore.” If she ever had.
Alice joined him in the kitchen, color in her cheeks. She whispered, “Thank you. Tell your father to come home for lunch.”
Calum laughed. “Tell her I will. See you soon, son.”
“Yeah.” Benton hung up and lifted his mom in the air, dancing her a few steps around the room while she laughed and hummed a few bars of her favorite waltz. “How you been, Mom? You look tired.”
“I’m fine.” She smoothed her hair once he set her down. “I still can’t believe how big you got. How’d you ever get from a seven-pound baby to six foot six? What do you want to eat?”
“You going to run with the Pack on Monday night?”
While Alice took Olga shopping, Benton helped clean up after lunch. He rinsed plates while he debated how to answer his father.
He’d known the question was coming. Calum was not a subtle man. He wanted his son to find a mate and settle down, start popping out pups and carry on the family name. It had been a bone of contention between them for years that he’d moved away after his military service. Every time he came home, his father dragged him to whatever event was likely to include unmarried female weres.
They’d had the “Are you sure you’re not gay?” conversation twice. Unlikely to be a repeat of that question, at least, not after he’d got caught with Liz last year. His cock stirred at the memory of her riding him on the too-narrow twin bed, their clothes unbuttoned and unzipped to free up the key bits, panting and sweaty and—.
He shoved the thoughts away. No sense getting stirred up. She wouldn’t give me the time of day now.
“I don’t know, Dad. Not sure how long I can stay.”
“Your mother misses you when you’re gone. You noticed how thin she’s gotten?” Calum kept his head bent over the soapy water, the scrub brush looking ridiculous in his big hands.
The sink was too small for them to share space, but they made it work, falling back into the routine developed during years of Benton’s teenage clean-up duty. He’d always been expected to help before and after meals. Now he was older, he could understand it had been his parents’ way of keeping in touch with their son. Back then? Not so much. Past time he said something.
“Sorry I was such a shithead in high school.”
“We all are. Part of growing up.”
They finished cleaning in comfortable silence.
“Have you talked to John?” Alice turned a bright-eyed gaze on Olga, fishing for gossip.
Calum had gone back to work. Benton, Olga and Alice enjoyed the late afternoon sunshine on the back porch, with the girl folded into some complicated pretzel shape, wedged into the corner of the swing next to Alice.
“Not yet. I haven’t talked to him since I left.” Olga hid her face against her knees. “I am sure he forgot me long ago, and has five other girlfriends. All of them wolves, of course.” Bitterness soured the words.
“Not last I heard,” Alice said.
He mentally groaned. Shit, Mom’s eyes were getting shiny. She had always thought John and Olga made a romantic couple. Probably reminded her of the battles she and Calum fought over getting married. No comparison. His dad had already been out of high school and working construction when they met, whereas John was the pampered only child of the Pack’s beta. Danny Lamptert owned a string of car dealerships in north Florida. John’s parents gave him a Mercedes for his fifteenth birthday. When he wrecked it a week later, they replaced it with an Audi, then another Mercedes. Unlikely he’d grown up much in the last year, not with other people fixing all his screw ups. Benton would have prescribed Boot Camp. Or several weeks of ass-kicking, which amounted to the same thing.
Olga’s head came up. “What have you heard?”
“Well.” Alice clasped her hands together over the blankets. Her classic ‘gossip-ready’ posture. It made Benton smile, until he noticed how thin and bony her hands had become, the skin stretched tight to transparency.
“He moped for months after you left. Drove his parents crazy.” Alice came as close as she ever did to malice. Brianne Lampert had been Brianne Styles back when Benton’s parents met. Bri thought Calum Havers should have been hers. His dad had never been able to stand the woman. Said her smell was all wrong. Benton hadn’t understood what he meant until he met Liz. She smelled so good his wolf wanted to roll around in her dirty laundry.
“But now?” Olga clutched at her knees, knuckles whitening.
“He got a job with your father.” Alice beamed at the girl. “Six months ago, when he graduated high school. Told his parents he didn’t want to go to college, or work in the family business. Said he wanted to learn a trade. Cal put him on a crew and he’s done well.”
Benton rolled his eyes. Last Benton heard, John still needed regular ass-kickings.
“John is working construction?” Olga looked stunned. Made Benton grin. Even in the throes of first love, the girl wasn’t blind to her boyfriend’s nonexistent work ethic. John had worked hard to get exactly one thing in his life: Olga.
“Yes. He’s grown quite brawny.” Alice made air-motions, as though shaping a muscular torso. “Tanned and fit. Though of course they do tend to fill out at that age anyway.” She cocked her head to the side and considered Benton. “You were a beanpole when you went into Boot Camp. Still can’t believe what a difference six weeks made.”
“Still got it, too.” He flexed both arms to make her laugh.
“Do you think I should talk to him?” Olga had untangled her legs and turned to face Alice on the bench. “Have you heard if he has a girlfriend?”
Benton cleared his throat. “Maybe hold off on that. Pack party is Monday night.”
Olga’s cold blue eyes would have withered a lesser man. Benton shrugged. “Just sayin’. Dicey business, hookin’ back up this close to Full Moon.”
It was still weird talking to her about wolves. One of their most sacrosanct laws was “No telling humans about werewolves.” Near as he could tell, that was the thing that set Olga off on New Year’s Eve last year. John’s parents found out Olga knew their son was a werewolf and pitched a fit, accusing her of witchcraft. Bri had actually attacked the girl, and when she retaliated, all hell broke loose.
It was serious business if you got caught shifting in front of humans. The Pack Enforcer came after you with sword and claws. The lucky males—and it was always males who got caught—died. Unlucky males were gelded, in a way their wolves couldn’t heal. They’d hushed up his indiscretion after Olga vanished, and the Pack beta’s son got away with a slap on the wrist.
Olga sneered at him, her hands clenching into fists. “You think this because he might hurt me? I don’t think so.” Strong emotions tended to shift her back toward a Norwegian cadence. That was one way to tell before she blew her stack. From what he’d found out during his search for the girl, you kept a frost giant calm, or you ended up with mayhem.
She must know his comment had nothing to do with needing to fear John. She only had three days here. Why rip the bandage off those old wounds? She could spend time with his parents, go shopping, whatever. Benton shrugged. She was gonna do what she was gonna do, regardless.
Alice patted Olga’s hand. “I’m sure he would never hurt you. Your brother is teasing.” She sent a questioning glance toward Benton and changed the subject. “Are you going to the Pack party on Monday? Your father loves having you there. And maybe you could see Liz again. Such a vibrant young woman. I haven’t heard she’s involved with anyone.”
“Mom, don’t. Okay? I’m not interested in marriage and babies and all that sh—. Stuff. Not yet, maybe not ever.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that you seemed interested in Liz when you were home last time. Most men say they don’t want to settle down, until they meet the right person. I like her.”
He grimaced and changed the subject. “How about I make us all some coffee?”