O: Opening up to
F: Forever Wolf
L: Love is
Read on for an exclusive excerpt from SEASON OF THE WOLF:
Pups spend their first years wild. Then comes the dreaded Year of First Shoes when they have to begin to learn how to be in skin. The First Shoes are supposed to wait for the adult wolves to come before they get into the water, but they are too anxious. . .
Something splashes, followed by excited yips and yells made by children who aren’t used to the form until one of the older ones calls out: “Tasha felled!”
Leonora starts to run, hampered by sandals. I run, too, hampered by the jostling of injured ribs, but Constantine races past me, wolf-fast on two legs. The children huddle to the side of the dock as his feet pound down the dock and he launches himself far out into the water, cutting through it like an otter.
At the edge of the dock, I lie down, my arms in the water where she should be, searching. Tasha isn’t even First Shoes and doesn’t know how to swim in skin.
The sun catches something bright in the churned water and I grab for it, pulling. My ribs scream even though she is being pushed up from below.
Constantine emerges as I gather her, tiny and coughing and terrified, into my arms, marking her over and over again until the shaking subsides.
His fingers grab hold of the edge of the dock, just below my bent leg.
“Coodn beethe,” she sobs.
“It’s not the same in skin. That’s why you have to learn. That’s why I told you to wait.”
I let my leg fall, feeling his fingers, cold and damp even through my jeans.
“I don’ wann be in thin. Don’ lig it.”
“It doesn’t matter what you like or want, you will do what you must. Like every Pack.”
Leonora is next to me now, in her bright-orange bathing suit, her handbag shaped like an oversize plum made of shining purple stones, bristling with antlers and cheese chews.
“Tasha, what do we say to the Sh–Constantine?”
I feel her tighten in my arms, her head raised to me for help, but honestly, I have no idea what Leonora wants from her.
“He saved your life. What do you say?”
“I don’ know,” she wails.
“‘Thank you,’ Tasha. You say ‘thank you.’ Wolflings, I have said this over and over, but I can’t emphasize how important it is. Humans are not Pack. There is no assumption of mutual support. A human may help another human or they may not. Because of this, there is always the expectation of gratitude. They will look very poorly on you if you do not say ‘thank you’ every time they perform any service, no matter how small or obvious.”
Licking away the last of the water dripping into Tasha’s eyes, I set her upright as the 8th emerges from behind the Great Hall, racing toward the water.
I lift my leg from Constantine’s hand, but one finger catches on the loose threads at the hole of my jeans. I lean back down, letting him free himself, and immediately regret his absence. Water beads on his hair and on his face, dripping down to collect in the notch of his collarbone, and I am suddenly, unaccountably thirsty.
“They’re coming.” He opens his mouth to say something to me, but whatever it is, there is no time to say it before Arne and other wolves of the 8th charge the length of the dock. At the end, they leap, paws extended, noses to the sky, before dropping with an unceremonious splat against the water.
Other wolves walk more daintily into the water’s edge.
Constantine’s sopping flannel shirt lands on the side of the deck with a damp splat, followed quickly by his pants. His hair swirls against his broad shoulders. He leans back, his throat long and exposed, the striations of the muscles of his chest glistening in the water. Upright once more, his hair smoothed back, he watches the children jump or wade in, all of them paddling around. It’s the littlest ones, the ones who aren’t used to the tiny squat noses, so unlike the longer muzzles, who have so much difficulty keeping themselves above water. There is a lot of coughing and flailing, but only for the moments it takes for an adult to swim closer. Then little fists curl around the long guard hairs and they lean their heads into the fur, their unfamiliar bodies swaying to the rhythm of their protector’s strokes.
Constantine swims around them, sleek and muscular, strong and fast, making ever-widening loops. He’s not guarding them anymore, not watching. He’s just a shining hint of gold and dark heading out into the middle of Home Pond.
With a ferret-quick twist, he turns his body, spreads out his arms, and floats, far removed from everything.
“Should I send Arne?” Leonora says. “Before he gets too far.”
I raise my hand. Wait.
I stare after him.
Come back. Stay there. Show me how. Help me.
Where is this coming from? He’s an interloper, an outsider. He has no purpose in the Pack. I must choose someone like Poul. Or maybe Lorcan. Let them fight it out for cunnan-riht. For fucking rights. Between the two of them, it’s a rock and a hard place. A pot and a kettle.
John was my friend. We knew each other. I trusted him, and when he died, my heart shriveled and dried. Why is it when this, this. . . this Shifter looks at me, touches me, I feel just how parched I have become?
Lifting his head from the water, he combs his hair out of eyes with long fingers. He looks around like he’s only now realizing how far he’s gone. Catching my eyes, he starts back with a slow and exaggerated stroke, coming for me.
(C) Maria Vale, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2020. Reprinted with permission from the publisher
In a world of danger and uncertainty, the Alpha has enough to worry about without him…
For Alpha Evie Kitwanasdottir, things are never easy. The Great North Pack has just survived a deadly attack. Evie is determined to do whatever is necessary to keep her Pack safe, especially from the four Shifters who are their prisoners.
Constantine lost his parents and his humanity on the same devastating day. He has been a thoughtless killer ever since. When Constantine is moved to live under Evie’s watchful eye, he discovers that taking directions and having a purpose are not the same thing.
Each moment spent together brings new revelations to Constantine, who begins to understand the loneliness of being Alpha. He finds strength and direction in helping Evie, but there is no room for a small love in the Pack, so Constantine must work harder than ever to prove to Evie he is capable of a love big enough for the Great North Pack itself.
Romance Paranormal [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: August 25, 2020, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781492695219 / eISBN: 9781492695226]
About Maria Vale
Maria Vale is a journalist who has worked for Publishers Weekly, Glamour, Redbook, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. She’s a double Rita finalist whose books have been listed by Amazon, Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, ALA Booklist, and Kirkus as one of their Best Romances of the Year. Trained as a medievalist, she persists in trying to shoehorn the language of Beowulf into things that don’t really need it. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.