Trial by Fire by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (sequel to Raised by Wolves, which I absolutely adored: review here), is being released tomorrow and to celebrate the UK release, you can read the first chapter online now.
A chapter trail has been set up for you to follow, the chapter has been split up into four parts and posted on four different blogs. You'll find the next and final part on the Quercus Blog once you've read this one.
Trial by Fire: Chapter 1 Part Three:
That night, I was the ﬁrst one to arrive at the clearing. We hadn’t had a fresh snowfall since the second week in November, but this time of year, the layer of white on the ground never fully melted away, and I breathed in the smell of cedar and snow. I was wearing wool mittens and my second-heaviest winter coat, and for a moment, I closed my eyes and imagined, as I always did just before the Shift, what it would be like to shed my clothes, my skin, and my ability to think as a human.
There had been a time in my life when the last thing I wanted was the collective werewolf psyche taking up even a tiny corner of my brain, but a lot had changed since then.
Without opening my eyes, my hands found their way to the bottom of my puffy jacket, and I pulled it upward, exposing the T-shirt I wore underneath. My ﬁngers tugged at the end of the shirt, and my bare skin stung under the onslaught of winter-cold air.
Opening my eyes, I traced the pattern rising over the band of my jeans: three parallel marks, scars I would carry for the rest of my life. For most of my childhood, the Mark had been a visible symbol to the pack that had raised me that I was one of their own, that anyone who messed with me messed with the werewolf who’d dug his ﬁngers into my ﬂesh hard enough to leave scars. Callum.
He was the alpha of alphas, the Were who’d saved my life when I was four years old and spent the next decade plus grooming me for a future I’d never even imagined. No matter how many months passed, every time my pack assembled, every time I lost myself and ran as one of them, I thought of the ﬁrst time, of Callum and his wolves and knowing that for once in my life, I belonged.
Every time I heard the word alpha beckoning to me from my pack’s minds, I thought of the man who’d once been mine–and then I thought of the other alphas, none of whom would have been particularly distraught if I went to sleep one night and never woke up.
Ah, werewolf politics. My favorite.
The moment I heard Chase’s voice, soft and unassuming, in my mind, every other thought vanished. It was always this way with the two of us, and the anticipation of seeing him, touching him, taking in his scent was almost as powerful as the feeling that washed over my body the moment he emerged from the forest, clothed in shorts and a T-shirt that didn’t quite ﬁt.
Chase had been a werewolf for less than a year. Ironically, that made him seem far less human than Weres who’d been born that way or the members of our pack who’d been Changed as kids. The difference was visible in the way he moved, the tilt of his head. For as long as I’d known him, he’d been in ﬂux, deﬁned by the wolf inside as much as the boy he’d been before the attack.
Now, slowly, things I’d felt in his memories and dreams, quirks he’d shown only in ﬂashes seemed to be ﬁghting their way back to the surface. Each time he came home from patrolling our territory as my eyes and ears, I saw a little bit more of his human side.
Each time, he was a little more Chase.
“Hey, you.” Chase smiled, more with one side of his mouth than the other.
“Hey,” I echoed, a smile tugging at my own lips. “How’s tricks?”
I took those words leaving my mouth as a sign that I’d been hanging around Devon for way, way too long, but Chase didn’t so much as blink.
“Same old, same old.” He was quiet, this boy I was getting to know piece by piece–thoughtful, observant, and restrained, even as the power in his stride betrayed the wolf inside. “How’s school going?”
“Same old, same old.”
“There’s no such thing as ‘same old, same old’ with you,” Chase said wryly. “You’re Bryn.”
Given my track record, he kind of had a point there, but I wasn’t about to admit it out loud.
With that same half smile, he leaned toward me, hesitant, but inhumanly graceful. I answered the question in his eyes, reached for the back of his head, brought his lips down to mine.
Soon. Soon. Soon.
I could feel his heart beating, feel his mind and thoughts blending with my own as the two of us stood there, bathed in moonlight and feeling its effects like a drug.
Whoever Chase was, he was mine.
Awesome, isn't it? The Chase/Bryn relationship just makes me melt with its adorableness. I haven't finished reading the book yet, but I'm loving it so far (I'll have a review up for it when I'm done). Don't forget to check out the rest of chapter one on the other blogs. :)