Monday, February 22, 2010

A Prequel to Under My Skin


Writing a prequel or out-take scene can help to solidify your character's motivation, can give you the source of character quirks, past secrets, lost loves...there're loads of benefits to jotting them down and I recommened giving them a go. But it's hard to make them stand alone - to not be one big insider joke. ;) Here's a prequel scene to Under My Skin that I'm working on to share with bloggers for my March blog tour. Hopefully it's a fun read. Poor Eryn is stressed enough for all of us...but doesn't she look cool?! (I so adore Val Cox, the illustrator who worked on UMS!)

The Beginning of the End

I’d expected things to be different after my parent’s funeral. Burying people you loved, even if the coffins were empty, had a tendency to do that to a person. But sinking my teeth into the soft flesh of the restraining hand of a Hunter Council representative seemed a little harsh, even for me.

I was barely aware of the man’s scream of agony as the metallic tang of his blood rushed down my throat, awakening my wolven instincts—bringing me back to reality. I released him and rounded on his boss, Sebastian Rhys, who despite a few wrinkles and greying temples, looked formidable in his funerary suit and tie.

“Eryn, sweetie, was that really necessary?” he asked, unimpressed. He folded his arms across his chest. The material of his black suit coat strained at the shoulders as his muscles flexed. Obviously the aging hunter hadn’t slacked off when it came to his training.

“Sebastian, you and your goon here snatched me away from my parents’ funeral. I haven’t seen you in years, and then you start in with the we-must-speak-in-private-or-it’s-your-life drama.” I glared at the man who had run my father out of the Council. “What did you expect? A hug?”

The Council rep I’d bitten snorted, then pulled a black satin handkerchief from his suit pocket, and wrapped his bleeding hand. For a second too long, I stared at the blood on his skin and clinked my teeth together against the urge to bite him again. I fought for control. After my parents disappeared, I could only scrounge up a few days supply of the drug that stifled my wolven side. I’d been taking half doses to drag out the inevitable. But already life felt….odd.

To distract myself, I sliced my gaze around the narrow room. Who would have thought the perfect locale for an interrogation would be tucked away in the basement of the funeral home? Weird how the Hunter Council always managed to find creepy little nooks like this when they wanted to lay down the law. A chemical smell lingered, infused into the walls, burning my nose hairs. Preservative. I shuddered at the thought.

“I wanted to tell you how sorry I am about your parents, how devastated the Council was when we heard about their disappearance.” Sebastian’s studied me with watchful eyes.

“And you couldn’t do that upstairs?” I let the rage build. Anger was so much better than tears.

"That part, yes.” Sebastian shrugged. “But there’s more.”

With the Council—there was always more. I couldn’t even muster up an angst-filled roll of my eyes thanks to the dull ache in my sockets. I’d been crying, of course, I had, but in the privacy of my bedroom where no one could see.

Sebastian gestured to his goon, who then reached into his suit coat and withdrew a large envelope.

“Open it,” Sebastian ordered.

My pulse throbbed in my thumbs as I held the paper. I had a really bad feeling about this.

I turned the envelope, opened the clasp, and reached in to pull out an eight-by-ten glossy photograph of a cute new-but-made-to-look-old Victorian home set on a neatly manicured lawn.

I gave a shocked laugh. “What? Are you into real estate now?” I offered the photo and envelope back to him. “I gotta tell ya, strong-arm tactics aren’t the best way to make a sale. Plus. Hello? I already have a house.”

Sebastian and his goon exchanged a look.

“You don’t recognize it?” Sebastian asked, holding up the photo.

I looked again. “No. Why? Should I?”

“It’s your uncle’s home.”

“Uncle Marcus?” I squinted at the photo, my eyes throbbing in the low lighting. “Oh, yeah, right.” I barely remembered our one and only family visit to my father’s younger brother. I glanced up at Sebastian, that bad feeling sinking into something very near dread. “So?”

“So. You’re moving there. Tomorrow. It’s all arranged.”

“Are you out of your mind?” I yelled and, as I did, the door behind us was savagely ripped from the doorframe.

“Eryn, why do you hide in such a place?” Nikko, my father’s second in command, held the door in his meaty hands, his stocky, broad form filling the doorframe. “Always the people are asking for you.” He tilted his head, assessing me, his full lips pursed. “You must come.” His Slovakian accent was thicker than usual.

A sudden lash of guilt whipped my hide. Minutes ago, as I accepted the condolences of a sea of people, I’d wondered…why had my parents gone missing? Why not my father’s second in command?

The Slovak set the door down. His classically handsome face hardened when spotted Sebastian. Nikko pointed an angry finger as he spoke. “I should have known this trickery about you. We had a deal. You were to stay away until after funeral.”

“Wait a minute.” I held up a hand, shooting Nikko a killing glance. “You knew about this?” I stalked toward my father’s best friend and confidante. “About them wanting to relocate me?”

“I knew,” he said. “It was their idea to have funeral. To make pretend.” He looked at me with pleading eyes. “Little One, is for your own good. Sebastian will find out the truth. Isn’t that what you want?” He crossed the distance to place his strong hands on my shoulders. I swatted them away, then missed the reassurance they had brought.

“He’s right, Eryn,” Sebastian said. “We have unlimited resources. We can discover exactly what occurred, why your parents were never found.” His expression darkened. “But to do that, we need you safely out of the way. Your uncle is the perfect choice. He lives in a remote area with zero paranorm activity. Until we figure things out, you’re vulnerable, you could be a target.” Harsh lines formed at the corners of his mouth. “You have to admit. Your father made many enemies—both human and paranorm.”

I glared at him. “And you were one of them.”

Sebastian slowly shook his head. “That’s not true. I mentored Liam. He was my prized hunter…”

“Until he met my mother,” I supplied. “Until they had me.” Didn’t this whole mess come down to my existence? The blending of wolven and human—or human with any paranorm broke sacred laws. My life had likely caused my parents’ deaths. Small slashes of guilt and pain were cutting into the I’m-fine-leave-me-alone fa├žade I’d worked so hard to maintain.

As if sensing my sudden weakness, Nikko placed a heavy arm around my shoulders. This time I leaned into his solid strength.

“Sadly, that’s correct,” Sebastian said. “My hands were tied after your parents’ married and you were born. I had to let Liam go.” He gave a tight smile. “But I helped when I could. The Council wanted you all dead. I fought for you then, as I fight for you now. I swear to you, Eryn.” His eyes bored into mine. “I will uncover the truth. If you let me.”

“What do I have to do?” I asked.

“Nothing. Not a thing. Just lay low and avoid drawing attention to yourself. If you can do that, I can start my investigation.” Sebastian strode to the gaping exit; his goon followed. “Think about it, Eryn, but decide soon. We’ve booked your flight. We’ll wait in our car.” Sebastian glanced around. “Funeral homes depress me.”

Then he was gone.

“Oh my God, Nikko,” I pulled away from the big Slovak. The stinking walls, the pounding in my head had me pacing the small room like a caged beast. “What do I do?”

“The Council has disbanded your father’s crew,” Nikko shrugged apologetically. “I can do nothing without them. Sebastian has the power. He can help.”

“I’ve been trained to hunt. I could track down whoever did this.” I clung to the idea I could avenge my parents myself.

“No,” Nikko’s voice was firm. “You’ve trained, yes. You’ve been on hunts. But never alone, never without the expertise of the crew.” Nikko tugged at his tie impatiently, looking uncomfortable in his suit.

I stared down at the floor. In a soft voice, I whispered, “What about my drugs? There’s nothing left.”

Nikko wagged a finger. “Don’t despair. The drugs will take time to leave your system. It may be months before you notice anything…if at all.”

“I wish.” I sighed. “There’ve been changes already.” I dragged my gaze up to meet his serious, sad face. Horror flooded into my system… If my father had been right, quitting the drugs cold turkey could prove disastrous. They might have caused mutations and that, combined with my mother’s wolven genes, could be lethal—for anyone who stood in my way. “What if I start to turn and I can’t control it?”

“You will,” Nikko said simply. “You will have to.”

I took a deep breath and tumbled into the beginning of the end.


Mom and I stood in the clearing, a fine mist of fog hovered a foot off the ground, snaking through the tall grasses. The damp ground smelled fresh and inviting. A gentle breeze brought the savoury scents of the forest to us. One scent stood out above the others. In synchronism we turned our heads. A deer pranced at the edge of the woods.

Shooting me a mischievous glance, Mom raised her arms, embracing the change. Her elegant form shimmered before me. Her hair whipped around in a wind of paranorm making. Energy crackled in the air. An instant later a sleek black wolf stood in my mother’s place.

The change took me then too.

Together we charged through the grass. Black wolf and grey wolf. Mother and daughter. Wolven.

The deer bolted.

We separated, flanking the panicked creature. In wolf form the complications of my human life slipped away. No more questions, just the thrill of the hunt. I was strong.

Invincible.

A different scent lit the air. Ignoring the black wolf’s sharp cry, I darted after the more intense lure.

A snarl. A lunge. A bite.

I feasted as if I’d never had a fresh kill before.

“Eryn, what have you done?” Mom, returned to her human form, stared down at me, horrified. Her beautiful porcelain skin paled to a chalky white, her delicate features twisted into a grimace. The revulsion in her eyes gutted me as if she’d swiped a claw across my belly.

I glanced down at the earth. At the bloodstained shoe that remained. A human. I had attacked a human. My stomach rolled.

“Help me!” I tried to scream, but in wolf form I couldn’t sound out the words.

Mom backed away, shaking her head.

I ran to her, not fast enough to reach her side.

She slipped into the mist.

Leaving me and the beast that had slipped over me like a second skin.


Weeks later, in small town Redgrave, I woke on a strangled sob. My teeth throbbed in my mouth. The coppery taste of blood lingered. The hum of an old-fashioned slide projector brought me back to the present.

Someone had flicked on the lights.

“That was must have been some daydream,” Mrs. Stantial said over the snickers of the entire art history class. “Are you alright, Eryn?”

I stared blankly into her concerned, I-bet-this-kid-needs-therapy eyes and let out a jerky breath.

“Oh, I’m just peachy.”

7 comments:

annoynomous said...

This sounds great!

Sherry @ Flipping Pages for All Ages said...

You're really making me pine for UMS you know that right?!?! :)

Tracy Belsher said...

Thanks guys, it looks wayyyy long on our blog page....hope it's not too much. Glad it works so far. ;)

Tami Klockau said...

Love this, Tracy. Great job.

Annoynomous and Sherry, UMS is just as awesome, if not BETTER! You should be pining for it.

Leona said...

Holy cow! Now you know I have this memeroy issue, You HAVE to tweet and email me the title and when it comes out. If it's already out, I missed it :( cooped up in no man's land without internet.

Good luck. If the story is anything like your appetizer, I'm going to get my daughter into a new series quicker than you can blink!

Tracy Belsher said...

Leona, don't worry - you're going to be sick of me by the end of March. ;)

Tracy Belsher said...

Thanks for the cheer section, Tami - you'ze the best!!!