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cropped-shakazhan-front-a-copy.jpgAs some of you know, I’ve been editing the third book in the Lone Wolf series (and rapidly losing what little bit is left of my mind). However, it’s scenes like this one that make me remember why I love this book and how much I enjoy writing. 

I read through this scene and I know I nailed it. The emotions fill me and I find myself in tears every time I read it. I thought I’d share this excerpt to whet your appetites.

The dark men surged down the tunnel after them. Their numbers were overwhelming. Ben and Marc formed a wall, with Wil directly behind them. He tried to contact the ship to teleport them out, but there was too much interference. Backing slowly as the men advanced, Marc picked off two with carefully aimed shots. Ben joined him, taking out a couple more. Their weapons were set to stun, but to the dark men, their comrades appeared to be dead.

Instead of stopping, the men grew more determined, advancing rapidly. Suddenly, as one, they lunged forward, making a grab for the small, retreating party of humans. One grabbed Marc, who crushed the dark man’s skull with a blow from his gun butt.

One held Ben, who summarily broke his arm, yanking it from the socket. The dark man screamed in pain as Ben’s blow to his head killed him. Wil kicked another one in the teeth, aiming down the tunnel, attempting to determine which was the leader.

His kill shot was true. The men stopped advancing as their leader’s head exploded. With a mighty roar, they made a last, monumental attempt to grapple with the humans. Wil pressed his wife behind him, trying again to contact the ship. There was a crackle of static and a faint acknowledgment from Hammer.

“Smith, get us the hell out of here!” Wil roared into his com.

The dark men gathered their dwindling numbers, preparing for a final assault. Growling angrily, they reformed their ranks around the fallen, glaring at the humans with hatred.

Wil shouted to his wife, “Run, Matilda! We’ll catch up to you! Run! Run!”
Matilda hesitated a moment. The passageway was dark, she could feel it surround her. Even the Kindred suit couldn’t compensate for the complete lack of light. Her childhood nightmares came back, freezing her in place.

“Wil, I can’t! I can’t see a thing! Oh, God, Wil, I’m so scared!”

“Babe, it’s okay. Hammer has us. He’ll get us out of here. Please, keep going a little longer.”

Hesitantly, she picked her way along, the floor sagging beneath her feet. The ceiling was lower with so much rubble, she had to stoop to move. The others were engaged in combat, she could hear it. All her instincts screamed at her to go back, to fight beside her mate.

Wil’s voice echoed down the passage, “Run!”

One of the dark men broke through their line, scrabbling over the stones, nearly on top of her. Matilda knew Wil was aiming at him. Flattening herself against the wall, she pressed back as far as she could.

“Now!” she screamed. “You have a clear shot!”

The weapon fired as she ducked, turning further away, sensing the electromagnetic pulse from Wil’s gun, hit the dark man in the back, hurling him toward her.

She tried to dodge him, but a hand shot out from his dying body, clutching at her flowing dress, dragging her with him. The floor collapsed beneath their combined weight. The man fell like an anchor into the nothingness below her. Kicking wildly, Matilda struggled for a hand hold, screaming hysterically.

Wil heard her scream, felt the give in the floor and ran full speed down the passage. The ceiling collided with this forehead, the sides of the passage snagged his clothing. “I’m coming! I’m coming! Hang on!”

“Wil! Oh, Wil! I’m falling! Wil!” A scream ripped from her throat, fading away as she fell.

Wil reached for her a second too late. He saw her dropping into the bottomless pit. His cry of despair turned into a howl of grief. A moment later, the three men found themselves on the bridge of Hammer. Matilda wasn’t with them. Wil lay on the floor, still as death.

“Oh, God,” he whispered. “Oh, God! No!”

Wil’s sorrow translated immediately into action. Standing abruptly, he raced to the console, shoving Scott Smith aside.

“Are you sure she didn’t just appear on another part of the ship?” His fingers flew over the controls as he tried to pinpoint Matilda’s location.

“I’m s-s-sure. Geesue, I’m s-s-sorry, Wil,” Scott stuttered in answer, his words totally inadequate for how wretched he felt.

“Maybe she’s just slow getting here, maybe you caught her as she fell?”

Scott slowly shook his head. “I had her signal and then it was g-gone. It s-slipped away s-so f-fast I couldn’t lock on her again.” Trying in vain not to cry, tears slid down his cheeks, staining his uniform and dripping onto the console.

Dry eyed, Wil turned from the controls, face white, eyes staring helplessly at his brother and son.

“She’s not dead. I know. I can feel her!” Wil thumped a fist over his heart. “I’d know if she was dead, wouldn’t I?”

Wil and Marc stared at one another in disbelief. Marc’s shrug rippled across his broad back and chest, shirt straining as the muscles bulged. Wil grabbed Marc’s shirt in both of his mighty hands, ripping the fabric and pulling the chest hairs. Marc didn’t even wince, merely stood like the Rock of Gibraltar, while his brother grieved.

“Marc, please tell me.” Wil’s voice wheeled, like a small child.

Marc’s jaw clenched, his eyes blinking rapidly. “I don’t know, Wil.” He choked down a sob. His own grief threatened to smother him.

Ben stepped forward. “Wil, she’s okay. It probably wasn’t a very long fall. Maybe she just bumped her head and is knocked out.”

Wil’s wild eyes turned to him as if he were a stranger. Focusing with difficulty, he nodded rapidly. He let go of Marc’s shirt, slapping Ben on the shoulder.

Wil stumbled from the bridge, collapsing in the corridor outside, his legs refusing their support. Dry sobs shook his body as he gathered himself up, entering a tube that formed in front of him. He went down to his garden, his private place, to grieve for his wife and their unborn child.
Marc eyed the bridge crew. All of them were in tears. No one could believe that Matilda was gone. The evidence was irrefutable and yet, he had a small glimmer of hope, a wish, a desire. A need! He gripped the back of his chair, knuckles going white.

No one dared to make a sound, afraid of what he might do. Had he lost his own family, his grief wouldn’t have been any greater than what he felt now. Marc knew he had to tell Becky. She would cry. Wil would never cry, but Becky would—for him and Matilda.

Becky must have sensed something wrong, because within moments after he thought of telling her, she was beside him, holding him tightly.
“Hammer told me,” she sobbed. “Oh, Marc, I just can’t believe it!”

For a few minutes, the entire ship held its breath, as if listening. By now, word had spread, a whispered message from the bridge. The crew were speechless with disbelief.

Hammer told Anvil, who in turn, told her people. Styx and Quick Silver huddled together in the belly of their mother, expressing their grief the only way they could. Their subsonic wails sent chills along the spines of the humans on board. Anvil’s cry of anguish over shadowed them all, her woe palpable by her crew as she grieved for her human daughter.

Wil couldn’t make himself believe that Matilda was dead. “No!” he howled. “I would know! I’d feel it!” He fell into the familiar, the known, the comfortable—he needed a plan.

Pacing in the garden, he yanked at his hair, grinding his partially smoked cheroot under his heel. If he hadn’t made her go down that passage—if she had stayed next to him— The logical part of him intruded itself. If she had stayed beside him, chances were good that one of the dark men would have killed her anyway.

“She isn’t dead!” His voice sounded strange to him—strangled, choking. It was only then that he realized he was crying. “She isn’t dead,” he whispered.

He felt Grandma touch his mind, but he couldn’t bear to talk to her. He couldn’t go into that quiet place without Matilda. If he walked in there and didn’t see Grandpa, he knew he would lie down and die. Part of him wanted to fall into that safe place, but he fought it, not allowing himself that comfort.

Grandma tapped at his mind more pointedly, but he ignored her. He turned his thoughts away from her, refusing to listen. Let her gripe and grouse. Let her hate him. He wasn’t going there, not now. A final tap and she stopped trying. When he slept, then she could talk to him. He’d be vulnerable then and unable to fight her. Satisfied with that she sat back, wondering where Grandpa had gone. She was as lost and alone without him as Wil was without Matilda.

Wil heard steps coming down the gravel path, spinning around, he hoped to see his wife coming towards him. For a moment, he thought he saw her, but it wasn’t Matilda. It was Becky, looking small and pale and afraid. What was she afraid of? He reached out to her and she flinched away. His anger and frustration had etched deep lines into his handsome features, warping them into a death mask.

Becky’s scared of me?

Wil collapsed on himself, falling to his knees. He felt each of his ninety years. This was what it was to be old. A coldness enveloped him.
Becky’s gentle arms wrapped around him, cradling his head to her. She hugged him tightly, weeping softly against his neck. Her voice was calming, crooning and serene. Sobs wracked his body, dry, tearless sobs. Had he shed tears? He didn’t know. If he had, they were gone. Only the ache, the emptiness remained.

“Becky?” Marc was by her side, holding her and Wil in a bear-like embrace, supporting them both.

Three miserable was better than one alone, but not a lot. Wil realized he didn’t want to be alone any more. He wanted his friends and family around him.

“Wil?” Becky spoke quietly, not wanting to intrude. “You have to look for her. Even—even if she’s gone.” She couldn’t bring herself to say dead, not to him and not right now. “You have to find her, bring her home.”

His dark eyes held a haunted look, flickering from her to Marc and back again.

“I don’t know how. I can’t plan—” His voice threatened to break into hysteria.

Becky hushed him. “We’ll think of a plan together. Right now, I asked Emily to bring something to help you sleep. It’s late and you need to rest.”

Wil shook his head, but felt the familiar sting of Emily’s syringe and his eyes drooped. Falling forward, he landed in Marc’s beefy arms. His brother entered a tube and carried him to his bed as if he were a child.

Undressing him and settling him in the bed, Marc turned to Becky as she set the privacy light and closed the door.

“He’s going to be pissed when he wakes up.”

Becky nodded, looking forlornly at the closed door. “I just couldn’t see him like that, Marc. Not for a minute longer.” Her hand fluttered up, touching the door, then dropped to her side.

Marc hugged her gently, steering her home.

“I can’t believe it, Marc. Is she really gone?”

“I don’t know, Darlin’. I can’t help thinking that she’s all right. God knows how I ache inside just thinking she’s dead. But there’s this little flicker of hope, that somehow, someway, she survived and waiting for us to find her.”

They went to their apartment in silence. Their sleeping boys were being rocked gently by the sentient ship. They looked so peaceful, without a care in the world, never knowing the pain their parents were going through. Kissing them both, Becky got ready for bed. She curled up and cried herself to sleep.

Marc lay in the semi-dark for a long time, replaying the incident in his mind. Matilda would have said he was torturing himself over it. He knew that there was nothing he and Wil could have done differently.

Falling into familiar patterns, developed over time, he played his mental game of What If? What If she didn’t die? What If someone rescued her? With this thought circling through his mind, he fell into a troubled sleep.

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