Sunday, March 11, 2018

Excerpt from Dogs of War

Dogs of War

Shadowlyte Shifters Saga Book I

Darkness haunts London as the members of the Shadowlyte Clan race to discover its source. Children are disappearing and the Alpha has been tasked with finding out why. His only hope for answers may lie with a woman who escaped hell herself.

Katryn O'Malley forgot what kindness was like, until the handsome black wolf offered her asylum with his clan. She knows she owes him whatever help she can provide, because London will never be safe until the men who captured her and the other children are brought to justice. 

Kat and Chase will face the kind of depravity that only the strongest can endure. They may even have a chance at happiness when it's over, but can they survive long enough to see it realized?

An Excerpt

Buckingham Palace was a stately manor, befitting the dignity of the Queen of England. Chase had attended functions at the palace as a peer of the realm and heir to his father’s estate, but he’d never been allowed behind the curtain of aristocracy that separated the royals from everyone else.

He stepped down from the carriage and turned back to help Li Na down as Kamil and Wang Lei disembarked on the other side. The queen’s footman appeared to usher them up the steps and into the palace.

Chase tried his best to hold back a groan at the barrage of Lords milling about in the anteroom outside the queen’s meeting room. He did not overlook the way the room went silent as soon as he and his siblings appeared.

“This way, sir.” The footman waved them past the horde, and through the door into a smaller secondary waiting room.

They let the mongrels in and we have to wait out here?
Shouldn’t they wait in the back with the other servants?

Chase gritted his teeth as the petty comments were cut off with the firm click of the doors closing.

“May I get you anything?” The footman, at least, seemed respectful.

“No, thank you.” Chase nodded to him and then caught Wang Lei’s eye as the man disappeared. “They aren’t happy to see us, are they?” he murmured.

Wang Lei smiled, but it wasn’t a particularly humorous expression. His eyes were hard with anger. “Your father was never popular in his decisions to raise children of other nationalities under his roof as his own.”

“They’re bigoted, hateful fools.” Chase patted his brother’s shoulder. “Fortunately, my father had the favor of the realm, and could do as he pleased.”

“Your father was a cad.”

They all turned, straightening when the queen herself appeared from a door at the end of the room. The men bowed, and Li Na curtsied, as Victoria chuckled.

“But you are correct, he was a particular favorite.” Victoria held out her hand to Chase and nodded as he kissed her knuckles. “I see he taught you well.”

“Your Majesty.” Chase straightened. “You remember my brother Kamil, my brother Wang Lei, and my sister Li Na?”

“Of course.” Victoria nodded regally to each of them, but her smile was warm. Chase noticed the overwhelming feeling of sadness that seemed to envelope her, and he knew that the rumors about her were true. The death of her husband still plagued her. She sat on a small settee and waved for them to sit as well. “It is highly unusual for me to converse with subjects outside the purview of my staff, but the situation calls for delicacy.” She tilted her head and her eyes were narrow. “I’m certain your father explained to you how much loyalty means to me.”

“He did.” Chase folded his hands, his heart hammering hard in his chest. It was not only unusual, but unheard of, for the qQueen to meet her subjects one-on-one. Whatever this matter was, it was more than delicate. “How may the Shadowlyte Clan be of service?”

“Straight to the point,” Victoria murmured with a nod and a small smile. “Very well.” She picked up a small bell on the table and rang it gently. The door at the end of the room opened, and a young couple hurried through. They were obviously distraught, and the woman cried into her handkerchief. The young man held her up with his arm around her shoulders, but his face was pale and pinched with grief.

“This is my youngest godson, Tomas De Esquivel, and his wife Lady Elisa.” Victoria stood and led the young woman to a chair. Tomas stood behind her, his hand on her shoulder as Victoria took her seat again. “Tomas’s mother befriended my daughter many years ago.”

“Pleased to meet you.” Chase took in the grief-stricken faces, hollow eyes, and shaking hands.

“Tomas and Elisa traveled here from Spain a fortnight ago with their son, Alvaro.”

“’Varo is only three years old.” Tomas’ voice shook.
“Last night, Alvaro disappeared from the park.” Victoria dabbed at her eyes with her own handkerchief. “He has not been seen since.”

“The police, Your Majesty?” Li Na’s lips were a tight line as she took in the heartbroken parents of the missing boy.

“The Metropolitan and the City forces have been unsuccessful at locating Alvaro. They found no sign of where he might have gone.”

“He was taken.” Kamil met the qQueen’s gaze with his own steady one.

“I believe so.” Victoria took hold of Elisa’s shaking hand. “By who, or what, I do not know.”

“Have there been threats against the boy in particular?” Chase let his eyes wander over the parents again. Their clothes were fine, if wrinkled. Elisa was a fey woman with sharp features and large, dark eyes. He saw no deception in the devastation of her gaze. Tomas, too, seemed genuine in his distress.

“No.” Victoria shook her head. “Against the crown, as always. But Tomas, Elisa and Alvaro traveled under assumed names and did not divulge their destination to anyone along the way. No one but myself knew the route they traveled or their plans while in the city.”

“Tell me about the abduction,” Wang Lei said quietly. He crossed his arms over his chest but his expression was sympathetic. “Where were you in the park? What were you doing?”
“The Punch and Judy show, at the center of the park.” Tomas wiped a hand over his mouth. “Alvaro loves the puppets.”
Loves not loved, Chase thought. They still believed the boy was alive.
“He was holding my hand, and Tomas went to buy roasted chestnuts.” Elisa’s voice trembled, thick with fear and sorrow. “And he called out to me to look at the dancers. ‘Varo was gone… in a second.”

“You never let go of his hand?” Wang Lei tilted his head, but he wasn’t accusatory, just questioning.

“No.” Elisa’s eyes widened. “I never let go of his hand.”
Chase met Wang Lei’s pointed gaze and nodded.

“What?” Tomas demanded. He came around the chair and went to his knees by Chase. He stared at Chase with wide, begging eyes. 

“What does that mean?”

“It means the police won’t find your son.” Chase touched the man’s shoulder gently and looked at Victoria. “But Shadowlyte may be able to find him.”

“What can you do that the police cannot?” Tomas asked. “Where is my son?”

Chase let his beast come forward, just enough to make the man gasp with the realization that the rumors about the Shadowlyte Clan were true. “There are many reasons to steal a child from his parents, but in this case it seems to have a sinister purpose.”

“M…magical?” Tomas’ face was improbably paler. He swallowed hard and reached out for his wife.

“Nothing can be certain, of course.” Chase tried to instill conviction into his tone. He wanted to reassure the parents without making promises he wasn’t certain he could keep. “What we can do is track your son, and whomever has taken him. If we can, we will bring him back to you.”

“Thank you.” Tomas’s head dropped to Chase’s knee as he sobbed. 
“Thank you.”

Kamil said, “We will need an item that belonged to your son. Something he touched often.”

“H…Here.” Elisa held out a ragged patchwork rabbit with one button eye and chew marks on the ears. “This is his bunny. He dropped it when…” She couldn’t continue as Kamil took the toy from her gently. “We will return it,” he promised.

“You will search for my godson?” Victoria asked. “Any support you need, I will provide. All I ask is that we do not let word of ‘Varo’s disappearance travel through the city. It will only spread panic and worry.”

“We will do whatever we can to help.” Chase stood and kissed her knuckles again. He then pressed his hand into Tomas De Esquivel’s shoulder gently.

“Your father would be proud,” Victoria called to him as the footman appeared to lead them away.

He bowed, and followed his brothers and sister back to their carriage. The Lords were gone, the hallway clear, but they didn’t speak until they were well away from the palace.
Kamil looked at the patchwork rabbit in his hand. It was small in his large palm. “Is the boy alive?” he asked Li Na.

Li Na stared out the window of the carriage, her palms pressed against the glass. She and Wang Lei were born three minutes apart in the middle of rice paddy during a raid of their village in China. After cutting free Wang Lei’s birth cord, their mother had died before she was able to do the same for Li Na. Lying next to their mother’s body for hours, still connected to the tiny bit of life force that remained inside her, Li Na’s inner eye had opened, making her sensitive to the life force of those around her. As she’d aged, her powers grew too, and now she could search out a spark of life in a particular individual from miles away.

She reached out and touched the little rabbit, closing her eyes. “He’s alive. So small. So innocent.” She opened her eyes and curled in on herself in the seat, shaking her head. “There is something bad with him.”

“Bad?” Chase looked at Kamil. Was it the darkness they had sensed heading toward London?

Li Na shook her head, unable to explain more. “He’s young, but he is very strong.”

“Black mage?” Chase questioned. They had come across their fair share of black magic users since taking their places in the Clan as guardians of the city. It was the calling of the Shadowlyte Clan to protect the people of London from all manner of darkness that might try to overtake them. He’d often wondered if every city was such a hotbed of depravity. Surely London was not the only place besieged by evil on a regular basis.

“We need more information.” Wang Lei propped his boot up on the seat and frowned. “Nothing about this seems right. This boy. This moment. All wrong.”

“I agree.” Chase took a deep breath as the carriage turned down the long lane toward the Shadowlyte manse. “But we’ve got a job to do, and we’ll do it.”

His brothers and sister nodded in agreement. Kamil tucked the little rabbit into the pocket of his coat, and his feet made a heavy thud on the ground as he jumped from the carriage when it stopped. “Tonight we hunt.”

A Note from the Author

I truly enjoyed writing Dogs of War. This is the first book in a series of Victorian Shifter novels that will tell the tales of the Warwick siblings and their adventures and their quests to discover love. London is a dangerous place for the draaier, and the Warwicks are the head of the most powerful shifter clan in the city. They fight against the black mages who use blood magic, but they have terrible enemies in high places. Neither the Warwicks nor the people they love are safe as long as the mages hold high positions in the government. The Crown itself is at stake, and only the Warwicks can keep England safe from the threat. 

The next book in the series is Whisper of Syn, an excerpt of which you'll find at the back of Dogs of War. Whisper is Wang Lei's story--and his heroine is Asynja. Though broken and driven nearly insane by her treatment at the hands of black mages, Syn knows there's one safe place and that's in Wang Lei's arms. 

Stay tuned for more of the Shadowlyte Saga. I hope you enjoyed this snippet from the book!

Happy Reading,

~AR DeClerck

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