The Cain Chronicles

Book Cover: The Cain Chronicles
Part of the The Cain Chronicles series:

Rylie Gresham has enjoyed two peaceful years as Alpha of the last werewolf pack in existence. But she's feeling kind of confused. Her boyfriend, Seth, has been away at college, and her feelings for his brother, Abel, have been growing as they run the pack together.

Everything gets a lot more complicated when someone sends her a silver bullet and a threatening message. It throws her into a deadly battle with enemies old and new, which is only slightly less perilous than the battle inside her heart. Sooner or later, she's going to have to choose: will she marry Seth, or follow her feelings for Abel?

This is a collection of the first four episodes of The Cain Chronicles, a serialized novel. It amounts to approximately 65,000 words. If you've read episodes 1-4 before, there's nothing new here. If you're just joining the story -- enjoy! 🙂

NEW MOON SUMMER
Rylie is Alpha: the leader of the werewolves. They're an endangered species living in a sanctuary, and she's guarded them for two peaceful years. The peace is shattered when somebody sends Rylie a threatening silver bullet. A new member of the pack goes missing. And to make things worse, her inner wolf is strangely attracted to her boyfriend's brother, leaving her torn between the love of two men--one of them a werewolf, and the other a former hunter.

BLOOD MOON HARVEST
Rylie's home has been turned into a battle zone by attacking hunters--and by her conflicted heart. Her wolf and human sides are in love with different men, and neither Seth nor Abel will give Rylie up without a fight. To save her pack, Rylie will have to find out who Cain is. To save herself, she'll have to choose between the man she wants and the man she needs.

MOON OF THE TERRIBLE
Abel is struggling to find his footing at the werewolf sanctuary when he receives terrible news: the girl he loves and his brother have vanished. Seth calls to claim that they're eloping, but Abel knows it's a lie. There's no way that Rylie would get married without telling him. Not when the memory of her scorching kiss is still burning on his lips. Certain that something is wrong, Abel drops everything to rescue Rylie and Seth--and stake his claim over his mate.

RED ROSE MOON
Rylie Gresham, Alpha of the endangered werewolf species, is pregnant. The fact that she's only eighteen and maybe a tiny bit in love with her boyfriend's brother isn't even the worst part: the baby is going to be a werewolf, too. Certain that Seth is the father, she finally agrees to marry him, even if her heart is still filled with doubt.

Abel is being held captive by Cain when he hears about Rylie's condition--and the shocking circumstances surrounding the conception. Rylie and Abel have been mating on the full moons, so there's a chance that he's the father, and she has no clue. Now Abel has to escape Cain and crash the wedding before his mate marries his brother.

A zombie mother-in-law, back-stabbing hunters, and wicked morning sickness mean that they're all in for one heck of a party.

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Publisher: Red Iris Books
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Gray Moon Rising

It’s been almost a year since Rylie Gresham was bitten by a werewolf on Gray Mountain. Now something is beckoning her back to the place she was attacked, along with every other werewolf in the world. But they aren’t the only ones heeding the call. A group of hunters notices them gathering and sees it as their chance to wipe out the entire species.

Seth is about to graduate high school when he learns of the final hunt. He secretly plans to save Rylie and his werewolf brother even though he has to play along with the hunters to do it. But Rylie doesn’t want to be saved. She’s already decided to solve her problems with a silver bullet if answers aren’t waiting on Gray Mountain.

One way or another, everything is about to end—whether it means Rylie’s liberation or the end of her life…

Excerpt:

Sometimes, when Rylie was alone, she practiced shooting the gun.

That was how she thought of it. Not “a gun,” or “that pistol she stole from Abel,” but the gun. Special emphasis on the first word.

It was a revolver. She knew this because the word was stamped on the side, along with the name of a manufacturer she didn’t recognize. Rylie had never fired a gun before, but she had seen people get shot. After hours of turning it over in her hands, probing its parts with her fingertips, and pointing it at the wall, she thought she had it figured out.

She knew the business end and the trigger. Those were the important parts. Though not as important as the single bullet in the chamber.

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Rylie sat on the edge of her mattress, popped the revolver open again, and tipped the bullet onto her bedside table. It was the same lonely silver bullet she had been hiding in her room for weeks. It had been in the pistol when she stole it from Abel’s duffel bag.

She warmed the metal of the gun in her hands, thinking about all the times she had seen Seth shoot empty cans and the way he stood to stabilize his arm. Rylie lifted the unloaded gun and aimed it at her wall. Pulled the trigger. Heard the click, watched the barrel rotate, imagined the resounding bang.

It wasn’t cold in her room, but she shivered.

Her bedroom at the werewolf sanctuary was meant to be cozy. The walls were painted an inviting shade of blue, the bay window let her look down on the gardens, and her bed always had a fresh duvet filled with fluffy down feathers. But there was no hiding the fact that her window was barred from the inside, or that the paint was scored by claw marks. Her mattress had been replaced six times already, and she had only been there for four months.

Rylie aimed the gun at the claw marks on her wall. Those were from the last transformation, so Scott hadn’t had time to repaint. He kept several buckets of that blue in the closet just for her.

Beyond the reinforced wall, Abel was waiting for the same thing she was. A new moon. He changed later in the night than she did, so he might have been resting in anticipation. He would run with the other werewolves when the time came. They had acres of empty, fenced land to enjoy, where no human would be in danger.

Rylie wouldn’t join them.

She pressed the barrel of the gun against her temple and closed her eyes.

Click.

Someone knocked on her door. Rylie shoved the gun under her pillow. “Come in,” she said without raising her voice. Anyone visiting on the night of a new moon would have hearing as good as hers, and she could hear the mice playing in the field outside her window.

Abel entered. He was tall, dark-skinned, and broad-shouldered. He filled the room like shadows filled the night.

“What are you doing?” he asked. He wore nothing but loose linen pants, which were designed to fall apart when his body grew and changed. It bared the scars that ran from his temple to his hip.

“Same thing as you. I’m waiting.”

His eyes narrowed. He sniffed. “What’s that smell?”

The bullet was still on her table.

Rylie grabbed it when he peered out the window and tried not to wince at the way it burned her hand. She sat on her fist. “I don’t know. Did you bust into my bedroom to ask stupid questions, or is something going on?”

“Me and Bekah and Levi are leaving. We’re taking the new kid out for her first run, so we thought you might want to come.” He didn’t manage to sound even slightly enthusiastic about the idea.

The “new kid” was Tyas, a thirteen year old who had fallen into their sanctuary after a family vacation to the Rockies ended in a werewolf attack. Her parents went home. She stayed. She had recently finished transitioning to a full werewolf, spoke very little English, and cried all the time. Rylie had been avoiding her. Actually, she had been avoiding everyone, but Tyas more than the others.

“No thanks,” she said.

Abel glared. “You’re changing in here again?”

“So what if I am?”

“We’ve got two hundred acres out there, and you haven’t seen more than the front yard. I know you’re still being all whiny about that thing that happened at Christmas—”

“Whiny?” Rylie’s voice went up an octave. She couldn’t hold it back. “You think being upset about killing eight people iswhiny?”

He shrugged. “I’ve killed more than that.”

“You killed werewolves. Not farmers. Not fathers. Not—”

“Whatever. Look, you can stay in here if you want. I don’t care if you want to mope in your gloomy pit of a room. But Bekah’s getting worried that you won’t leave, and that means Scott’s getting worried, too. You’re going to have a whole coven of witches on you if you don’t act like you’re getting better.”

She bit her bottom lip. “But I’m not getting better.”

“Like I said. Whatever.” Abel paused halfway out her door, and something flitted across his face that might have been sympathy. “You and me could go on our own. You know, let Bekah and Levi babysit Tyas. There’s plenty of space.”

“No,” Rylie said forcefully.

Any hint of sympathy vanished from his expression. Abel’s mouth opened like he was going to say something else, then clapped shut again. He slammed the door behind him. It was reinforced with silver and steel, so it clanged in the frame.

Rylie peeled her fingers open. The bullet had burned a red divot in her palm. She grimaced as she slid it into the chamber of the revolver, then blew on the injury and shook out her hand.

She wasn’t whining or moping, no matter what Abel said. She was more dangerous than the other werewolves at the sanctuary. It was better to hide.

Rylie tucked the gun into a drawer on her bedside table. Her blood grew cold as closed it, and her gaze was drawn to the window. The new moon was invisible in the black sky, but she knew it was peeking over the hill. She could always feel the moon.

The change tugged at her, like the moon was connected to her breastbone by a silver thread. Rylie stood and grabbed the bars as she gazed at the clear night sky. Her heart worked twice as hard to beat. Her blood grew thick and sluggish.

Almost time.

She fastened the bar on her door—not that werewolves were any good at operating doorknobs—and undressed. She folded her clothes and stuck them in the drawer with the revolver. Her hands shook as she pushed her furniture against the walls.

“Maybe it won’t hurt this time,” she whispered.

The stars blurred as the moon rose. Her eyes burned with tears. Her skin itched with fever.

Figures darted past the window. Four other werewolves, still in human form, fled for the trees. The wolf inside of Rylie longed to join them. She wanted to run, to feel the dirt between her toes, to be enveloped in the chilly spring breeze.

Someone gave a sad cry that sounded like a howl. They wanted her to come, too.

No. I can’t.

The last time she ran loose, she almost killed her aunt.

Painful memories were enough to kick the change into high gear. The power of the moon buckled her knees. Rylie sank to the floor, and her forehead bumped against the carpet.

Her jaw and cheekbones popped. Her skull cracked like ocean ice as her muzzle grew, and the skin stretched to the point of tearing. Rylie’s nose extended in front of her eyes as teeth erupted in her gums with flares of pain. Blond hair pooled around her hands.

It shouldn’t have hurt. After so many months of shifting shapes, she should have been used to it. But it was like taking a sledgehammer to the face every time.

She cried out as her lower back snapped, flinging her onto her side. Her kneecaps dislodged. Her anklebones strained as her feet rearranged.

The room blurred. She couldn’t focus on anything but the carpet two inches from her face. Where was the wolf? She prayed for it to sweep her human mind away and release her from the pain.

Let me go… let me forget…

The tail ripped free of her back. New muscles knit together as fire swept down her spine.

The mind of the wolf pressed into her, and Rylie surrendered. The pain became distant. It kept her from having to think about murders, revolvers, or monsters. And she definitely didn’t have to think about everything she left behind when the werewolf destroyed her life.

All she knew was the cold peace of a predator’s mind. It was better that way.

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All Hallows’ Moon

The good girl has become the big bad wolf…

Rylie survived a werewolf bite. She’s moved to her aunt’s ranch to enroll in a new school and continue her life—except now she transforms into a monster every moon and struggles to control her murderous urges.

Without many werewolves left, it’s hard to stay in hiding. A family of hunters–Eleanor, Abel, and Seth—recognize the signs and follow Rylie to her new home. They want to stop her before she murders someone, and the only way to do it is with a silver bullet. Seth soon realizes the werewolf is Rylie, the one monster he failed to kill. Worse yet, he’s still in love with her.

Torn between family and love, Rylie struggles to reconcile her feelings and control the wolf within while Seth fights to do what’s right. But what is right—obeying desire or duty?

Excerpt:

When the sun sank beneath the hills, the trucker turned on his headlights to illuminate the road. Night fell quickly in the middle of nowhere. There weren’t any streetlights for miles, much less city, so he knew it would be black in minutes.

His passenger bounced her knee and drummed her knuckles against the window. She was fixated by the passing landscape even though there was nothing to look at but long grass and the occasional tree. Her blond hair was pulled into a messy bun and her fingernails were chewed so short that her thumb bled.

The trucker watched her from the corner of his eye. She was starting to tremble.

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded a little too quickly. “Yeah. Sure. I’m fine. Is this as fast as we can go?”

He chuckled. “I’m in a hurry too, sweetheart, but I’ve gotta go the speed limit. Another speeding ticket could make me lose my job.”

“Going slow could make you lose more than that,” she muttered.

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“What did you say?”

“Nothing.”

A rabbit bounced past the headlights, and her head whipped around so she could stare at the place it vanished. There was something unnatural about the way she moved. It was like everything startled her. The trucker wondered if she was on cocaine or meth or something else. Nobody acted like that unless they had taken drugs—or if they were nuts.

He suspected there was something wrong with his mysterious passenger when he picked her up at a truck stop two states back. How many cute teenage girls hitchhiked on semis? Just prostitutes. But this kid was no hooker, and the trucker wouldn’t have done anything if she was. He had a son her age back home. His picture was taped to the dashboard.

The girl seemed pretty normal for the first few hours—quiet, but normal—but she got more nervous as time went on. Now her skin was flushed and her pupils were too wide.

“You ever going to tell me your name?” he asked. It was the first time he’d tried to talk with her since Colorado.

“Rylie. My name’s Rylie.” She raked her fingernails up and down her shoulder, leaving red tracks on tan skin.

“Pretty name. I’ve got a niece named Kiley. She’s in the chess club at school, and…” He trailed off as she shuddered, hugging her backpack against her body. “You okay?”

“Moon’s coming soon.”

“Yeah?” He leaned forward to look at the sky. All the trucker could see were clouds. “How can you tell? Won’t there be a new moon tonight?”

“I’m in a hurry. There aren’t going to be any cops out here. Can’t you…?”

“Relax,” he said. “We’ll get there when we get there.” He watched her from the corner of his eye. “How old are you? Sixteen? Seventeen?” She didn’t respond. “Drugs seemed like the cool thing to do when I was your age, but they ruined my life. I lost my family and spent years in rehab. Addiction is brutal.”

Rylie looked startled. “I’m not addicted to drugs.”

“I didn’t think I was addicted either, but—”

“No, I mean, I’m not taking anything. Okay?”

“Okay, okay. You’re not addicted. Then what are you running from?” he asked.

“Nothing. I’m going to live with my aunt. She moved out here from Colorado a couple of months ago, so I’m going to work on her new ranch.”

“And your aunt lets you hitchhike?”

She lifted her chin stubbornly. “Nobody lets me do anything anymore.”

“Uh huh.”

She wasn’t going to talk to him about her problems. No big deal. The trucker remembered being in her place years ago. He hadn’t wanted to talk about it all that much, either. Getting past his denial was the first step to recovery.

They drove on in silence, and she kept scratching herself. Probably meth. It looked like meth.

Even though he knew he couldn’t help her until she was ready to help herself, he had to try. “I could drop you off at a hospital if you want,” he suggested.

“I’m not going to a hospital!” she snarled. Her eyes flashed a reflective gold, like an animal.

“Holy mother of—”

Rylie looked out the window again, cutting him off with a slam of her knuckles against the glass. “My friend Tyler says speed limits are suggestions.” She had calmed down and sounded normal. Not growling. Not like…

He was imagining things.

He patted his pocket in search of caffeine pills. The trucker hadn’t slept in over a day, and now he was hallucinating. But his pockets were empty. “Maybe I’ll go a little faster,” he muttered. He’d get the kid to her aunt and pull over to catch some sleep.

The trucker rolled down his window, letting the cold air slap him in the face. When the clouds parted, there was no moon. It was a dark night.

Rylie groaned and doubled over.

“Hey there,” he said. “You okay?”

Her fingernails dug into her sides. “I’m—ugh—I’m fine.” Rylie shoved her backpack to the floor of the truck and pressed her forehead to her knees.

She arched her spine. It ridged under her t-shirt like it could tear the fabric.

“You don’t look fine.”

“I need out. Stop the truck!”

“What? But—” A sign whizzed by, indicating that the next town wasn’t for fifteen miles. “There’s nothing out here. I can’t drop you off; you’d get eaten by—”

She lifted her head and slammed it down again. Something made a popping sound, and it reminded the trucker of the time he caught his arm on a passing trailer and wrenched his shoulder from the socket.

Rylie snapped her head to the side. Her bleeding gums stained her teeth and the skin around her nose was stretching—her nose was breaking—

“Jesus Christ!”

“Stop the truck,” she growled. “Now.”

He swerved and tried to press himself against his door to get away from this thingit wasn’t a teenage girl, not anymore, her blond hair was falling out in huge clumps on the seat—but the huge cab of the truck was suddenly too small.

She threw her head back as she screamed and dug her nails into his dashboard. They weren’t fingernails anymore.

He threw the brake even though they weren’t on the shoulder of the road. They weren’t even on the correct side, for that matter. He didn’t care.

Something snapped and cracked. Rylie’s jaw unhinged and slid forward. She spit blood onto her jeans.

The trucker’s hand fumbled for the door. Locked.

“Oh no—oh God—”

She flung herself against the dashboard, and then arched in the other direction, straining her feet and head back like a bow. Something was wrong with her knees.

Yeah, but what isn’t wrong with this thing?

“Get out!” she shrieked, and flecks of bloody spit slapped against his face.

Rylie lunged for him, claws flashing.

His finger caught the lock. The door fell open.

He fell onto the pavement and slammed the door behind him. The trucker couldn’t think straight, because every time he tried to broach the idea that some poor hitchhiking kid had turned into something—something not human—he felt a level of panic very close to insanity.

The cab rocked back and forth. He couldn’t see what was inside from this angle, but he could hear shrieking and howling. Those noises couldn’t come from a human mouth.

Because she’s not human.

“Oh Jesus Christ,” he said.

Fear wheeled through his skull. Management would have everything from the neck up if they found out he abandoned his truck. And the goods, the electronics he was supposed to be getting to that warehouse—

Something slammed into the windshield. The safety glass spiderwebbed.

Forget management.

The trucker ran as fast as he could, rolling his tubby body along at a speed he hadn’t managed since he was two hundred pounds lighter and twenty years younger.

Howls followed him into the night.

Rylie awoke to a cool breeze playing across her skin and a feeling of dread.

Oh no. Not again.

She opened her eyes. A tiny black bug crawled along the grass by her head, and a thin layer of mist hovered over the ground. Her skin felt soggy.

Shutting her eyes, Rylie tried to force memories of the previous evening to emerge. As usual, she couldn’t remember what happened after she… changed. But she remembered a trucker. Nice guy. Smelled like gas station bathrooms and tobacco, but nice.

Her mouth was sticky, and there was a warm, sated feeling in her stomach that she recognized. It was the same way she had felt after killing a deer over the summer.

She wiped a hand over her mouth, and her fingers came away bloody.

Was the trucker… alive?

Rylie sat up, scrubbing a hand over her chin to clean it. The damp grass made her shiver. Ants marched along her knee.

She lifted her head and sniffed. The smells of the pasture splashed through her mind: meat and blood, soil and grass, honey in the comb, and a musky, chemical scent meant to mimic flowers. It was her own smell. She had picked the weirdest perfume she could find at the drug store so it would be easy to track.

Trailing the perfume down the hill, she found shreds of cloth tangled in the barbed wire fence. She suddenly recalled agonizing pain scraping down her back as her fur stuck on something—but it was gone as soon as it came. She never remembered her time as a wolf once she turned back.

Rylie picked the remains of her clothes out of the wire. There were more holes than cloth in her t-shirt, and the seams had burst when she changed, too. But it covered the important parts. It was better than nothing.

Her jeans were a little further down the hill, and in even worse condition. Rylie had to hold them over her hips as she plodded toward the road. She had no idea how to explain this to her aunt. She needed to buy new clothes before showing up at her door.

She stopped at the bottom of the hill. There were lumps all over the pasture in front of her, but it was too dark to make out any detail. Rylie approached the closest one with fear twisting in her stomach.

It was—or at least, it used to be—a cow. But the only way Rylie could tell was because of its distinctive odor, like manure and hay. The thing on the ground didn’t look much like a cow. Neither did the other three carcasses, either. She had a feeling she knew what had happened.

“Oh no,” she whispered.

Something clicked twice, chick-chuck. Rylie had seen enough action movies to know the sound of a shotgun being pumped.

“Hands up. Turn around. Slowly now—nothing sudden.”

Rylie obeyed. Her heart skipped a beat.

It wasn’t the first time she’d been at gunpoint, but it was just as scary this time as it had been the last time, so it took her a moment to realize who was aiming at her. A gray-haired woman with hard lines framing her mouth braced the butt of the shotgun against her shoulder, and a cowboy hat hung down her back by a bolero tie.

“Aunt Gwyneth?” she gasped.

The shotgun dropped. “Rylie?”

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