This is an excerpt from my latest short story, The Alpha’s Edge — a prologue to my new supernatural romance trilogy. You can download the full novella by signing up to receive my blog posts via email, using the form on the right. I hope you enjoy it! -Julie
I whirr down the back window of my black hybrid Rolls. My nose twitches at the welcome scent of snow. I admire the moon, almost full. Tonight will be a good night to drive out of the city and into the forest. I have only one appointment ahead of me this evening, and it won’t be complicated. I figure I’ll be able to get away before midnight. I whirr the window up and settle back into the seat.
Aksel, my driver, catches my eye in the rearview mirror. “Thinking of a run, Alpha?”
“Of absolutely nothing else,” I confirm, my inner wolf eagerly anticipating bounding on four legs over new snow later this night.
My spirits lift higher when we turn onto Montague Street. I’m glad to be back in my London neighbourhood with its stately white row houses, black wrought iron fences, and neatly swept streets. The afternoon has drained to dusk, and the street lamps are already glowing against the sapphire sky. I take a deep breath and decide it’s the clean air I most appreciate.
I’m returning from Mongolia. The steppes were a magnificent place to open negotiations. Unfortunately the business concluded in Ulan Bator where the environment is less magnificent at this time of year. It’s smoky season, otherwise known as winter, when the yurts on the north side of the capital pour their wood fire ash onto the city. It reminded me of the stories the elders tell of the time in London, over a hundred years ago, when factories in the East End belched gases into the air to mix with the coal fire ash pouring from house chimneys all over the city. At that time these same streets were soupy and foul smelling. I’m not one to romanticise them.
The Rolls stops in front of Hanover House. I thank Aksel and get out, my overcoat draped over my arm. Aksel will take care of my luggage. I’ve been away three months, the usual time it takes for unrelated packs to form solid bonds. I run my eye over the impressive façade of the hotel that has served as my pack’s international headquarters for the last two centuries. I take the six steps to the graceful entry.
Heavy brass and glass double doors open to my arrival.
“Welcome home, Alpha,” the doormen say in unison.
I nod and smile. “George, Johann. It’s good to be home.”
I step into the lobby and onto the Axminster carpet. The space impresses not with size but with perfect proportions and the warmth of walnut paneling burnished with time and care. The registration desk stands opposite the entryway, its counter a sweep of polished marble. On the left is a cozy sitting room. At the moment it’s empty, as is the lobby, which was why the doormen were comfortable to greet me by my pack title. If humans had been in the vicinity, they would have addressed me as Mr. Hanover.
And the scent is perfect: sandalwood and civilisation
I cross the space and acknowledge the two receptionists on duty. They also greet me as Alpha.
Straight ahead is the dining room where the guests have breakfast. The back wall is a series of French doors opening out onto a terrace garden on the other side of which is the British Museum. The silhouettes of the up-lit trees in the garden are stark and sculptural against the November sky. To the right of the dining room is a longer corridor leading to the hotel barroom. To the left is a shorter corridor ending with a door whose brass sign reads Employees Only.
I turn left. Hardly two steps later, an erotic image pops into my head. What appear are pleasingly plump thighs, creamy white skin, and an enticing flare of hips. I easily push the image aside. However, I’m surprised. I regularly feed my sexual appetite, but I’m usually more in control of it, especially when I have more important things on my mind.
Returning my focus to those more important things, I go through the door. At the sound of my arrival, my Beta comes out from the back office, grins broadly, and strides forward.
“Bardulf,” I reply, returning his strong clasp.
“Happy to be back?”
“More than I realised,” I admit, handing him my overcoat. “Just before pulling up here I had a craving to go to Hanover Forest this evening once I finish my appointment with Pyotr. Please join me?”
“With pleasure.” Bardolf hangs the coat in an antique wardrobe. “You managed to finalise the meeting with him for tonight, then?”
“Nine o’clock. He’s coming here.”
“Have you eaten?”
“I’ll have Rudolf take care of that for me, once I’m upstairs. All I really need now is the report you’ve prepared and any news beyond the spare facts you’ve supplied me over the past few months.”
While forming my bond with the Mongolians, I followed protocol. I focused my attention on my Khalkha hosts and spent as little time as possible communicating with my home pack.
Bardulf ushers me into the back office. I take my place behind his massive walnut desk. Bardulf goes to the sideboard, pours out two glasses of whisky, and places one of them at my right hand. Then he chooses one of the club chairs in front of the desk.
When Bardulf is seated, we raise our glasses and take a sip. I nod at the folder in the centre of the desk. It’s marked G4S. “Everything here?”
“Most of it you already know or can guess,” Bardulf says, “but I laid it all out so you and Pyotr could look at the specifics together.” He adds a bit ruefully, “Business is good.”
I stifle a sigh. “Humans,” I say with a touch of rancor. “Of all the animals to be in charge of the planet ….”
“Quite,” is Bardulf’s response.
I shake my head. “We’re happy to provide them security when they need it.” I place my hand atop the folder and say, “Thank you for this.”
Bardulf nods. “As for the news, let’s see… in the neighbourhood there were the usual inconvenient street repairs on Southampton Row, and a bomb scare at the British Museum, easily diffused now that the bobbies are more open to help from our canine squad, especially in our own neighbourhood.”
“Ah, small mercies,” I confine myself to saying.
“They still think we run an animal protection charity. Anyway, we’ve hired three new employees in your absence, all lower level so we didn’t bother to consult you. The repairs on the third floor have been finished, along with the renovations to the bathrooms on the fourth floor. Anything else? Maybe some carpeting decisions, things like that. The designers are on it.”
I don’t need to know the details, but I do like to be kept up to date on the condition of the property. I ask after Bardulf’s mate and cubs and receive the news they’re all well. Our talk turns to mild gossip. There were the typical squabbles among various members of the pack, but nothing out of the ordinary, and nothing Bardulf wasn’t able to handle in my absence. All seems in reasonable order.
When we’ve finished our drinks, I stand up, take the folder and say, “Well done, good work. Going home now?”
He shakes his head. “Just a couple more things to tick off my list.”
I drop my hand on his shoulder as I pass by him. “We’ll meet up later for a lovely late-night run in the woods.”
I leave the offices and take the back stairs, two by two. As I flip through the pages in the folder, another erotic image invades my thoughts. This time it’s the fresh scents of springtime and the sounds of soft, sultry laughter, with pretty pouty lips beckoning to me. Liquid heat pours through me. I fend off these sensations.
When I reach the sixth floor and step out into the corridor, I can already hear Wulf’s howling behind the door to my flat. I hasten my step and take the precaution of taking off my tie and suit jacket.
The door is opened by Rudolf who bows to me with dignity. My massive brown wolfhound, Wulf, greets me with far less decorum. Before great paws fall on my shoulders, I manage to hand over the folder, my tie, and suit coat to Rudolf. Then Wulf and I are rolling on the floor of the entryway, reacquainting ourselves with one another.
“We’re not like humans, you know, Wulf, who can do new business over the course of a few weeks or even a few hours. We have to spend time with packs we make alliances with. You understand that, don’t you, boy?”
Wulf growls, telling me he doesn’t want to think about the reason I’ve been gone so long. I glance at Rudolf. He’s watching our noisy wrestling match with an air of resignation. He knows he’ll soon receive a ruined dress shirt to repair. When Wulf has shaken off his loneliness, I’m allowed to get up. As I do, I unbutton my shirt.
Handing it to my long-suffering butler, I say, “My good man.”
Rudolf accepts the offending article of clothing and enquires, “Food first or your bath?”
I look down at myself. “Considering the amount of slobber I now have on my undershirt and elsewhere, I’ll bathe first. Then, food, please,” I say, suddenly ravenous. “Make it a thick steak with a side dish of carrots and parsnips.” I realise I’m very hungry. “And add two baked potatoes with butter and sour cream. Oh, and put the folder on my desk in the media room. I’ll eat in there.”
Rudolf accepts the orders with a nod and disappears. I take the hall to my suite, with Wulf trotting along behind me, tail swishing. Under Wulf’s watchful eye, I take a quick shower. Then I look in the mirror and pull on my chin. Deciding Pyotr won’t care if I show up at our meeting with scruff, I spare myself a shave and put on fresh clothing. I snap my fingers for Wulf to follow as I go back down the hall. I cross the lounge, pass through the dining room, and go into the media room.
I seat myself at my desk and Wulf luxuriates at my feet. Reopening Bardulf’s two-part report, I skim the first part, which lists the assignments where G4S werewolf packs are deployed around the world, first by continent then by individual country. All is in excellent order, and business is good, as Bardulf said, sadly so.
“We do protect animals, don’t we, boy?” I say as I stretch out my hand and scratch Wulf behind the ears. He growls his contentment. “The ones we protect are the humans, and we protect them from themselves. But we’re certainly not a charity.”
Governments, industries and even individuals hire G4S when populations experience social unrest caused by war or climate change. Given the famines in the developing world due to extreme weather, climate change now provokes war, just as war contributes to worsening climate conditions. Hundreds of G4S werewolves were sent to protect various clients following Hurricane Katrina. I myself, as well as other high-level officers, went to the US following Superstorm Sandy. Refugee camps in Kenya, home to hundreds of thousands of people who’ve fled conflict and drought, are under G4S security, as are places in India. Bringing in the Mongolian packs is going to be a great help in bolstering G4S forces in Central Asia.
Werewolves, with our discipline, strength, heightened senses, and sharp reflexes, are the ideal weres to blend into human populations and maintain control when necessary. Unfortunately last year several European leaders had been either too ignorant or too arrogant to think of security during the Syrian refugee crisis. Finally Pyotr and I pooled our resources and sent in forces without the humans being the wiser. The situations at the borders of Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary had been bad, as had certain events in Germany, but they would have been a good deal worse without the clandestine operations of G4S and Securitas.
My meal comes. I feast on blood-red meat and turn to the second part of the report, which is less stellar – not only because the international agreements on carbon emission reduction are not as stringent as I would have liked but also because I can read between the lines. The bloody werecats think they still have all the time in the world to address global ecological problems. They’re excellent negotiators – really the best – but only when they buckle their lazy arses down and actually negotiate. In the meantime, the werewolf alliances Pyotr and I have created in the Ice Cap, Arctic, and Boreal are doing all they can to support alpine and tundra reforestation to offset industrialisation in India and China.
Just as I’m finishing with both the food and the report, another erotic image pops into my head. This time it’s graphic, and I have no choice but to go with it. It involves another plump beauty, but I switch her out for a leggy blonde, exactly the kind of woman I like. A second blonde enters the picture, but I substitute her as well. For a three-way I want a brunette. I indulge the satisfying scenario until Wulf jumps up and begs for a scrap of steak, thereby dispelling my fantasy. I have a passing thought for calling a geisha service when I return from my midnight run.
To distract myself I pick up the remote and log onto my preferred newsfeed. It comes to life on the flat screen on the wall facing my desk. No surprise: the world is as chaotic a place this evening as it was the day before. After sifting through a few reports, I log out. I still have time before my meeting with Pyotr. I want activity. I decide to roam the hotel.
In the entry hall it takes quite a lot of explaining before Wulf catches the idea he’s not what I need now in terms of companionship.
I inform Rudolf of my plans and head into the corridor. This time I choose to take the steps on the opposite side of the hotel from the offices, namely the ones that lead most directly to the hotel barroom. As I tread down, I feel better already, less restless. I come to the ground floor stairwell, push through the door to the hallway, and stop dead in my tracks.
I scent my mate. No, it can’t be. I don’t have a mate. I surely would have found her by now, since Hanover males regularly mate by the time they’re twenty-five. In my case that’s eight, nine years ago already.
I try to clear my head, but the scent remains, capturing every thought, every feeling. Wild berries, earth, fresh lake. The most alluring, appealing, seductive combination in the world. My wolf howls and is ready to dive right in. I take a deep breath. The scent is exquisite. Layered. Rich. Juicy. Feminine.
It’s coming from the barroom. I take the next few steps and pause on the threshold. I cast my gaze around the scant collection of people lounging around at this hour. I see three women scattered among the tables, each seated with a man. Another two women are perched on the high chairs at the bar, flirting with the single men. I catch the scents of their various lotions and creams and perfumes, none of the layers well combined, mostly cloying. My mate is definitely not one of them.
Then I look behind the bar and lock onto The One. A seism of shock ripples through me followed by a strong wave of confusion.
Oh, hell no!
Read part two of the Alpha’s Edge Now!
This post was written by Julie Andresen