Feb 14, 2018

Diving into the comic book business

I'm pleased to announce that soon you'll get a chance to enjoy the story of Bill Ryder as you've never see him before.


or Graphic Novel for those of you too "cool" to read comic books. Whatever floats your boat.

ISSUE 1 - A PARTY TO DIE FOR - is coming soon to, Comixology, and Print

Bill Ryder has a blind date with destiny in the form of a voluptuous piece of eye-candy he meets on the subway. It’s an opportunity too good to be true, but too awesome for him to pass up. Pity, because he’s about to bite off far more than he can chew.

Now, he finds himself trapped, surrounded by monsters, and with no pulse. He's about to realize that being a vampire doesn't mean much when you're still at the bottom of the food chain. 

Q: So you're in the comic book business now?
A: I guess so. Funny ole' world we live in, ain't it?

Q: How many issues can we expect?
A: TBD. A lot depends on the level of interest. If people are into it, then expect it to go on for as long as it can. If not, then consider this a cool collector's item.

Q: Are these going to be the novels retold in graphic format?
A: Initially ... at the very least Bill's origin story will be. My hope, however, is for this series to eventually encompass both - retellings of The Tome of Bill novels, as well as new adventures. As I said above, a lot depends on interest.

Q: Who's the team behind the scenes, because we know you can't draw for shit.
A: Quite true. Bill The Vampire issue 1 includes artwork by Antwon McNair and lettering by Percival Constantine.

Q: Hey! Bill / Sally / James / whoever, doesn't look like how I imagined they would.
A: Sorry about that. Consider it artist license. Well, that, and you can at least rest safe in the knowledge that I'm not busy rooting around in your thoughts.

Q: Yeah, really funny, smart guy. So how about at least a sneak peak.
A: Ask and ye shall receive. Click on the image to the right for a larger sneak peak.

Available for digital pre-order now from

Dec 29, 2017

Adventures in VR (and AR)

While I can't exactly call it a theme with my Christmas presents this year, I did receive a couple of gifts aimed at either virtual reality or augmented reality. So I figured I'd so what anyone with a self-serving blog would do ... review them in a manner that's aimed at causing maximum ire.

I received a download code for Star Trek Bridge Crew for the Sony Playstation VR, an add-on system that's been somewhat underused since we got it last year. What better way to dust it off than to step into the shoes of a Star Fleet officer while doing my best to bed green alien women and take a big steaming dump all over the Prime Directive?

To boldly go where no dork has gone before
Controls: While it seems Bridge Crew should work with the Playstation move controllers, I didn't test it out. Instead I used the Dualshock 4.  All in all it's a pretty painless, if limited experience. The thumb sticks control your right and left arms, and the trigger buttons do stuff when the game allows you ... although, despite being captain of this crew, it seems to spend an awful lot of time telling you what you can't do.

Gameplay: It's fairly simple. You choose one of four stations and work the somewhat mundane controls. In essence manning a Federation Starship is the 24th century equivalent of writing Excel spreadsheets at the office, if your boss was capable of occasionally firing photon torpedoes at you.

Looking down in virtual reality, I noticed a shapely set of legs beneath me. I was playing a female captain and wearing a miniskirt (because what else are you gonna wear when commanding a quarter mile long starship?). Alas, you only have so much freedom with your virtual hands ... which I guess is a good thing, because otherwise this would be a completely different game.

Ultimately, this is an amusing way to kill a bit of time, but mostly comes across as more of a tech demo than a full game. There's no opportunity to roam the halls of your ship. You can't head down to sick bay and ask Dr. Crusher to examine the phaser in your pocket. And, despite being captain, there aren't any options to order Mr. Worf and Commander Data to fight to the death for your amusement.

As an aside, perhaps it's just me, but I sort of resent the game's enforced morality. You can't just open fire on every civilian ship or starbase you come across. But then, I guess the assumption here is that Starfleet Academy's psych evals would have probably weeded people like me out long ago. Damn it! You win this round, Federation.

Verdict: Geeky fun to kill an hour here or there, but not something I'd want to play for a marathon session. However, I see a lot of potential to expand this into a full-sized game.

Whereas Star Trek Bridge Crew assumes you're happy to sit in your chair, charting stellar anomalies until you can collect your Federation retirement check, Jedi Challenges offers a bit more options including the Holy Grail of gaming: fighting with a fucking lightsaber!

Controls: The game is controlled mainly by your phone, the augmented reality headset it comes with, and a rather cool lightsaber prop. Most of what happens includes looking, clicking, and occasionally slicing the shit out of opponents. Needless to say, one of these control types is slightly more engaging than the others.

Not pictured: dignity
Gameplay: Jed Challenges comes with 3 game modes. The first is a risk-type battle game, which at the time of this blog post I haven't tried yet. I hear it's fun, but can't comment quite yet.

Next up is holographic chess as first seen on the Millennium Falcon in episode 4.  This is cute, but ultimately it's a game of waiting to see who's going to make a stupid move first, you or the AI. Prepare to spend a lot of time moving the same piece and forth, while your AI opponent does the same. Fun to try, but I see this being the least used mode in the game.

Yeah, yeah, I know. The only one people really give a shit about is lightsaber battles. Well, it's a mixed bag from what I can tell. For starters, clicking on your handheld lightsaber and watching the blade ignite in VR (along with sound) is cool as all fuck. There are no two ways about it. However, it quickly becomes obvious this is a game limited by its hardware and the capabilities of your phone.

First off, the blade of the lightsaber has an odd tendency to stick out at an angle from your saber. I mean, I guess you could pretend to be using Count Dooku's weird-ass weapon, but it instantaneously makes things feel a bit off.

The saber itself reacts to your commands and moves as you move your arms, but there's a noticable lag. It's not 1:1, sadly.  It's not bad, don't get me wrong, but it's enough to remind you you're playing a game and not actually getting smacked around by Darth Maul. However, it's close enough to make me think that if they decide to release a Jedi Challenges 2.0, we'll finally be there and thus will have an excuse to forever more ignore this pesky thing called actual reality. 

Other thoughts: the upside of the AR headset is you can see your surroundings, so less chance of falling down a flight of stairs or force-punching your family in the mouth. Downside is that this thing eats up your phone's battery life and can cause it to heat up uncomfortably.  It's also a bit of a pain to set up as installing your phone involves a good chance of hitting your screen or a button and turning off the game ... meaning you have to pull it out and start it again. 

Verdict: Soooo close. A lot of fun and done in a way where you can see your friends pointing and laughing at you. But that lack of 1:1 lightsaber movement is just enough to cause a small tear to roll down one's cheek.

Finally, a full open world game ported to VR (or at least the Playstation VR).  And, best yet, it's a game most of us have already sacrificed a significant chunk of life to. No introduction needed.

Sorry, dude, but I feel entitled to your stuff
Controls: right away, despite the awesomeness that is the land of Skyrim, the seams begin to show. You have a choice between using the traditional dualshock controller or the move controllers. The problem is, each involves a sacrifice of sorts. Using the normal controller is fine and dandy, but you lose a ton of immersion. There you are, smack-dab in the middle of Skyrim, but you can't forget you're using a game controller.

The move controllers make combat itself awesome. There's almost a 1:1 aspect between using them and swinging a sword. Pity they suck for everything else. Using the menus is an exercise in hating life. And walking ... err, teleporting that is, just feels ridiculously unnatural, all because Sony has yet to update their move controllers with thumbsticks. Bottom line here is, either way, you're going to find yourself bitter.

Gameplay: It's freaking Skyrim. If I have to explain to you, chances are you're just a spam bot. Combat is fun with the move controllers (even if the rest isn't), but aside from that the main appeal is you're standing right in the middle of freaking Skyrim. Giant monsters tower over you. Guards get right in your face. The graphics aren't great, limited by the PS VR's capabilities, but really the only thing missing is a friend to punch you in the face whenever your character gets hit.

Verdict: Again so close. And I can't even blame Bethesda Studios, as Sony's the one who has put out an essentially hobbled VR kit by not updating their controllers with freaking joy sticks.

Not Tested: Gran Turismo VR and Accounting VR.  Accounting looks fun, but short. And Gran Turismo is a racing game, which means don't hold your breath for me to test it.

Bottom line: VR and AR are here and they're pretty cool. But, outside of high end PC systems, I think we're perhaps one generation away from it being truly phenomenal. For now, accept it for what it is and that there probably will be some compromises along the way.

Closing thoughts: Why the fuck isn't Jedi Challenges available for PS VR???? The only issue with it is the lack of 1:1 movement, which the PS VR handles just fine. This game would absolutely rock on PS VR. Yes, I understand Sony and Disney probably hate each other, but c'mon. I can't be the only one here who sees this is pretty much a formula to print money.  Get over yourselves and get on that shit, guys!

Oh well. Until then, I hope everyone is having an awesome holiday season, and likewise wishing you all a Happy New Year!

UPDATE: I got a chance to try the tower defense game that comes with Jedi Challenges and it's a lot of fun. The controls are fairly simple, albeit it can be easy to forget to lower your lightsaber and aim with your head at times. That said, there's a lot to like playing a holographic Star Wars tower defense. Definitely a recommended mode to try.

Nov 6, 2017

Adding some swag to my bag ... custom USB drives.

If you follow me on Facebook or Team Twat-Waffle you've probably heard me talking about wanting to increase my branded non-book offerings ... aka swag as it's known in convention circles. And believe me, I'm hard at work looking to expand my current meager offerings (although those of you who were at Con Carolinas have gotta admit the Cursed Dice were way cool.)

Well, I just got in a batch of custom 8GB USB Flash Drives from USB Memory Direct and I have to say I'm seriously digging them. Bill The Vampire's life may suck, but these definitely don't.

I can't wait to get them into people's hands.

Oct 26, 2017

This Halloween there's plenty of reasons to DIE LAUGHING!

Halloween is supposed to be terrifying, but some of us prefer our terror with a side of laughter. For those who like a good chuckle right before the masked killer steps out from behind the tree and takes them out for good we have a special treat this year...

Ten books for under a buck each. We're talking:

Fat Vampire by Johnny B. Truant
Hell's Tittie's  by Robert Bevan and Steve Wetherell
Bubba the Monster Hunter Season 1 by John G. Hartness
Shoot the Dead by Steve Wetherell
Smalls' Soldiers by Renee Miller
Topher Nightshade vs. The Camp of The Undead Apocalypse by Drew Hayes

And the first four books of the Tome of Bill Series:
Bill The Vampire
Scary Dead Things
The Mourning Woods
Holier Than Thou

CLICK HERE to check it out!

Already scoped out Bill and the rest? Well, good news! The Tome of Bill Vol-2 box set is also out. The final four books (5-8) of the series all in one set for one low price.

Goddamned Freaky Monsters
Half a Prayer
The Wicked Dead
The Last Coven
Available in ebook and audiobook!

Tome of Bill Volume 2

Oct 12, 2017

Teaser Chapter for Midnite's Daughter

MIDNITE'S DAUGHTER, a manga-inspired fantasy adventure here!

Check out a small sample chapter below....

A Child of Two Worlds - Belonging to Neither, Dangerous to Both.

All Kisaki really wants is to belong *somewhere*, but there are few places half demons can safely call home. Raised in isolation within the celestial palace, she longs to escape and explore the strange planet below - Earth.  So when an opportunity presents itself, she takes it, inadvertently stealing her mother’s greatest treasure in the process – the Blade of Heaven.

Exploring a whole new world is terrifying enough, but hot on her heels is her so-called guardian, the tiger-spirit Shitoro. If he catches her, he'll drag her straight back home. She thinks it’s to punish her. But in actuality it’s to save her.

She doesn’t know it yet, but there’s a very good reason Kisaki has been kept hidden away.  Half-breeds such as her are not tolerated by the demons lords.  If they find her, they’ll stop at nothing to take the blade and erase Kisaki, her mother, and everyone she cares about from existence.

Kisaki's head rocked to the side from the blow and she tasted blood.

She staggered back several steps but managed not to fall.

All at once, the world seemed to be moving in slow motion. Pain from the hit, the coppery taste of her own blood, her friend screaming her name, and the huffing laughter of the human who had dared lay a hand upon her – all of it happening simultaneously.

It was the first time Kisaki had ever been struck. She'd often read about such punishments, and much worse, in her studies, but had never experienced it herself. She'd expected it to hurt, and it did. What she didn't expect, however, was the cold logic that descended upon her mind, nor how the world seemed to grey out around her.

He didn't hit me that hard, did he?

Before her eyes, the world seemed to change. The sounds around her faded away and she was suddenly no longer in an alleyway. Instead, she stood in a large room. A man was there with her. He was wearing drab green clothes and seemed to be yelling at her for some reason. For a moment, she feared that she'd somehow accidentally activated her last crystal, abandoning the brown-haired boy as well as Tamiko and Shitoro. But then she realized something was wrong about what she was seeing. The man's lips were moving, but she couldn't hear his words. In fact, she couldn't hear anything.

Her body raced forward, seemingly with a mind all its own. Kisaki could only watch as her fist shot out, but it was all wrong. The hand and arm attached to her was much larger and coarser than her own.

None of this mattered to the yelling man, though. He grabbed hold of her and then she was airborne, flying over his shoulder to land roughly on the wooden floor where she...

Just as quickly as the vision had come, it faded away and Kisaki was back where she'd been, tasting her own blood as color returned to the world and sounds started up again.

The world was still moving way too slowly, but that cold logic in her mind demanded that she use the time to study the foes around her. She became acutely aware of everything about them – their size, their weight, the way they moved, how quickly they did so. All of it registered in her senses within the space of a split second, locking itself into her memory with perfect clarity as if she'd spent months, maybe years, studying nothing but these humans.

With that clarity came understanding. She realized how sloppy the attack against her had been. It was a miracle she'd been struck at all, probably more a result of her outrage than any real attempt on his part. If anything, she didn't feel anger against him so much as embarrassment for herself. Such a blow was easily countered. Everything that these men...

No. Warriors were men. These were boys, peasants, children – warriors in their minds only.

It was time to teach them the error of their ways.

Time sped up again to its normal pace, but still that cold logic remained. She stepped forward again. The male who slapped her saw her coming. He looked surprised for a moment before covering it up with a veneer of arrogance.

"Want some more, bitch? Good, because I'm serving it up all day."

This time, he balled his fists, but it didn't matter. Kisaki somehow understood what he was going to do, perhaps even before he did.

She raised an arm and easily blocked the punch. Her attacker's eyes opened wide in surprise. Then, just as quickly, she threw a blow of her own, an open-handed shot to his throat. It caught him dead on, as she knew it would, and he doubled over, gasping for breath.

As he did, she brought a knee up into his jaw. She heard teeth crack and then he dropped to the ground. Unlike when he'd shoved her, though, it didn't appear he would be getting back to his feet nearly as quickly.

Kisaki had barely a moment to be amazed at what she'd done. She'd never been allowed to study fighting or weaponry, no matter how much she had begged. Her mother had forbidden it, and Shitoro wasn't the type to go against her wishes.

But then the moment was over, as the other boy next to Robbie rushed at her. This one was short, but thickly built. He moved as one who knew what he was doing. Not a warrior, but perhaps one in training.

None of that mattered. Kisaki analyzed his moves in the time it took him to pass Robbie and came up with a counter strategy.

She feinted to the right, but he seemed to anticipate that, which was precisely what she expected him to do. She cut hard left, sidestepping him. As he passed by, she shoved him from behind, using his own momentum to propel him into a pile of refuse along the side of the alleyway.

Rough hands grabbed her from behind in a bear hug, lifting her from the ground. Blast! She'd forgotten about the pony-tailed one, Jack. Perhaps sensing she was a greater threat than her friends, he'd come up from behind her unawares as she battled the other two.

"The hell?" he cried. "You some kind of ninja?"

Kisaki allowed herself the ghost of a smile. Ninja had been mentioned in her studies. They were said to be masters of stealth and combat arts. It was something she'd never considered herself to be, but she was currently too distracted to disagree with him at that moment. Instead, as way of response, she threw her head back, catching him on the nose with a satisfying crunch.

He screamed and let go, allowing her to throw a kick back into his leg, which dropped him to one knee.

She immediately realized that these three had been little more than the warmup. The real fight lay before her. Robbie and his two remaining friends had disengaged from the brown-haired boy. She now had their undivided attention. The first two, mere minions, wore uncertain looks upon their faces. Their leader Robbie, however, looked sure of himself, a fact attested to by his wide grin.

He had a confidence about him that suggested he didn't expect to lose. Robbie had the look of one who was used to having the advantage. Indeed, he was larger than most of the humans she'd met, including fully grown males such as Mr. Yoshida. For all intents and purposes, Kisaki should have been terrified of him. But she wasn't. She didn't know what was happening to her, but whatever it was, she reveled in it.

Available now for:
Amazon Kindle / Kindle Unlimited

Sep 14, 2017

Making The Orville funnier ... one comedy writer's conceit.

The ship is nice looking ... but not funny
I watched the premiere of The Orville last night, Fox's attempt at a comedic Star Trek take off - not dissimilar to what Galaxy Quest did, but in TV form.

It was pretty good. I'll definitely be tuning in again. However, I can't help but feel they missed a ton of opportunity to make what was a good show into a great one.

I think the biggest miss there was in the rather light sprinkling of comedy, which was amusing at times but never even close to what I'd consider hilarious.

Now, Seth MacFarlane's resume is a shitload longer than mine, so it's probably arrogant of me to say this, but I can't help but think their biggest mistake is in trying to give The Orville a heart. The problem is, for me at least, feel-good comedies more often than not lose sight of the comedy part in favor of making us root for the heroes. That's a shame, because this isn't serious sci-fi. There's no reason for us to root for anyone.

Consider Spaceballs, Mel Brooks' spoof of the Star Wars franchise. The thing is, is works, and often works well. Why? Because it's not afraid to embrace its absurdity. It doesn't care if we love Lone Star or are hissing at Dark Helmet, because they're both equally inept. The thing that matters is they're making us laugh, which they do often.

The Orville instead tries to give us a serious universe with some quirky characters. There's definitely potential there but, if the premiere was any indication, they were far more focused on making us like the cast than making us laugh ... and in what is essentially a spoof of a well-established genre, I'm not sure that's good enough.

Being I allegedly know a thing or two about comedy myself, I thought I'd take a stab at fixing this.

That said, here are some missteps and/or changes I would make to the characters of The Orville which I think would up the funny considerably, while still leaving it safe for prime time TV.


Captain Mercer: I think the show's number one mistake was in making him a competent officer going through a bad stretch. That right there makes it far too easy for him to reach down inside and ultimately do the right thing / find the right path. Can't say that works for me. Instead, make this guy a total fuck-up and an irredeemable one at that. Either Peter Griffin in space or a live action Zap Brannigan. Have him win the day by dumb luck, barely learning a damn thing as his crewmen get vaporized around him yet he collects the accolades.

Commander Grayson: The cheating ex-wife. Sadly, the way they're playing it here makes me think they have two choices plot-wise: either she and her husband eventually get back together after a series of Friends-like blunders or they merely stay friends and learn to work with each other. Unfortunately, the first is cliche and the second simply isn't funny. Go 100% Married With Children here, I say. Make these two loathe each other, yet be forced to work together. Heck, maybe the reason she's even on the ship is she has a huge life insurance policy out on him and is doing her damnedest to get him killed in a way that lets her collect. 

LT. Malloy: The mistake here is that both he and the Captain are both super competent, but a bit screwed up. Again, that allows them to fix things because ultimately they're both capable officers. I'd say, of the two, let him stay competent, but make it so that he's loyal to a fault to his friend. His entire career has been killed because he's constantly covering for Mercer and suffering the consequences as a result.

Bortus: Interestingly enough, I wouldn't change him too much. He played straight man in episode 1. Keep him that way. Make him the equivalent of Alan Rickman's character from Galaxy Quest. In fact, make him far more competent than either the Capt or 1st officer, yet they always get the credit. Deep down he hates them both, since he's more fit for command, but he believes in duty too much to do anything about it ... save hope they both die horribly in a way in which he can't save them.

Currently in no danger of being dethroned
Lt Lamarr: If they made the changes I suggested to Malloy, then I'd keep him as is. One jackass at the navigation station is cool, but not two. His snark was amusing, just don't turn him into a stereotype in space. That'll quickly tire.

Isaac: Talk about the biggest wasted potential of the premiere. Me, I'd go full-on Marvin the paranoid android's arrogant brother with him. Everything he says and does would be a dig at how much the others suck. Heck, maybe I'd make him the big bad enemy of the season, constantly reporting back to his superiors so they can invade the Union ... but ultimately sending them shitty info since the people he's reporting on are all inept. 

Dr. Finn: I would make her as she appears in the premiere, but to the Nth degree. Have her be writing a research paper on why the Union needs better screening and this crew are the main subjects. Make her always studying them, even when they're injured, but treating them more like lab rats than people.

Alana Kitan: The first thing I'd do is have her be a LOT more ignorant in the ways of how other species work. Her strength should cause more problems than it solves. She's always hurting people, smashing equipment, or crushing her laser gun at the wrong moment. It's a bit cliche, but maybe have her eventually discover the joys of sex and go all overboard, ensuring that half the crew are in sickbay at all times because of her voracious appetite.

The Krill: They had zero personality in the premiere - generic bad guys, who stopped long enough to have one civil conversation, which was supposed to be funny, but wasn't.  Rewrite them so that they're hyper violent. Make them Klingons on steroids.  Everything about their culture is violent. Their solution to every problem is to shoot, stab, or punch it. The captain's answer about marriage would have been far more hilarious had he explained, how he blew up his first wife, shoved his second out an airlock, and is currently fending off multiple assassination attempts from his kids.

Those are just my off-the-top-of-my-head thoughts. Hopefully subsequent episodes can kick the tires a bit and find a better pace for the humor.  As I said, I'll be continuing to watch it, but as of right now it's with an eye more toward hoping they don't miss as many opportunities than actually laughing out loud.

Jul 29, 2017

Teaser Chapter for Lycan Moon

I'm pleased to announce that LYCAN MOON, a new dark fantasy adventure by yours truly and Ruby Cruz, is almost here!

Coming Aug 11th. Available for Pre-Order from now. Check out a small sample chapter below....

Rowan Sinclair has trained for a life in the shadows. As a member of the Guild, she's vowed to mercilessly hunt werewolves or die trying. But when one approaches her, claiming to know her missing father's fate, she decides to do the unthinkable - work with one of the very monsters she’s sworn to destroy.

Dean Mason is a man living with a curse, doing whatever he can to keep the beast inside from sating its bloodlust under the light of the full moon. When a chance meeting offers a tantalizing glimpse of a potential cure, he’ll do anything to end the nightmare.

Now destiny has united these two predators, each possessing the key to something the other desperately needs. Their partnership will lead to either their salvation or mutual destruction in this urban fairy tale where there's no such thing as happily ever after.

Ro stopped moving as she heard what sounded like multiple soft footsteps padding through the underbrush. As she ceased her movement, so did they, mirroring her. She’d been right. These wolves seemed much smarter than the average packs she and her father had hunted in the past.

“Hello?” she called out timidly. “Is anybody there?” She almost had to stifle a chuckle at the horror movie cliché.

Before entering the park, she’d purloined an oversized coat and hat from a nearby Goodwill box. She figured her best bet for blending in would be to either appear as a jogger out for a late night run or as a homeless person in the wrong place at the wrong time. She’d decided on the latter, as it made her appear weaker, not to mention offered plenty of camouflage for her weaponry.

Though she had her tracker on her, she didn’t dare look at it. To do so now would give away that she was more than she appeared. Besides, with her senses on edge as they were, she didn’t need it.

She took a step, then another, when the hairs on the back of her neck stood up straight and a corresponding spike of adrenaline hit her brain.

Ro sidestepped, more out of instinct than having heard the actual attack. The wolf was both smart and fast. Had she been anything less than she was, it would have taken her and carried her off into the bushes before she’d even had a chance to scream.

Pity for it that, smart as it was, luck wasn’t on its side this night.

She spun as it leapt at the spot she’d been a mere moment before and brought her fist up, slamming it into the back of the beast’s thick skull. Normally such a blow would be laughable in the face of a monster wolf, but she’d used its momentum against it. Off balance as it was, her hit sent it staggering to its knees as it tried to cease its own forward motion.

Ro jumped on its back, simultaneously drawing her knife. She was sticking to her personal promise. Besides, it was too soon for the gun. She could sense this wolf wasn’t alone. Though double-tapping it in the back of the head with nine millimeters of silver was by far the safer course of action, she didn’t want to prematurely scare off the pack-mate she was certain was close by. She wanted it to think this was a fluke – that she’d gotten lucky.

After everything she’d gone through the past few weeks, one kill was not going to suffice for this moon.

Before the first wolf could regain its feet, she slammed the weapon into the base of its skull. Despite the toughness of its skin, the silvered blade sank into it like a hot knife through butter. With a quick twist of the grip, she severed its spinal cord, killing it instantly.

It hadn’t even had time to whimper.

Ro pulled out the blade and palmed it, drawing it into the oversized sleeve of the coat. She backed away from the downed wolf and started trembling. Though she knew it was likely that whatever else was out here with her wouldn’t be taken in by the ruse, she had to try. If another wolf was close by and truly in the grip of its beast form, it might not possess the higher brain functions to put two and two together.

She didn’t think that likely, though. Everything she knew about these Los Colmillos wolves told her they weren’t animals, at least not in their thinking. The first one had been sloppy, overconfident, but there was little chance of another being so reckless in the face of the obvious – that she was still standing while its pack-mate lay dead on the path.

Still, Ro kept up the illusion. She backed away from the monster, staring at it wide-eyed, a feigned look of horror upon her face as if she was too terrified to even scream.

Several moments passed when suddenly the hairs on her neck stood up again and she sensed movement from ahead.

That’s it. Come to mama.

She’d purposely backed herself up against a rocky outcropping. It served to protect her backside, even if it boxed her in. That was fine, however. She had no intention of running.

The wolf stepped from the brush on the opposite side of its dead companion. It was huge, considerably larger than the one she’d just dispatched.

She took a quick look at the dead wolf, taking note of its smaller size and lighter coloring. Probably a female. The one before her now was most definitely a male which, for some reason, made the coming fight even more exciting.

The beast lowered itself to all fours and approached the downed wolf slowly, its eyes never leaving her. Its stance suggested it was ready to spring into action at any moment. Ro stared back at it wide-eyed, as if in disbelief, but in actuality waiting for it to be in a position where she was unlikely to miss her shot.

Slowly, she reached down with her free hand and slid it beneath the hem of the coat to where her holster lay.

Just a little more, you son of a bitch.

The wolf nudged the other with its nose, as if checking to see if it were merely stunned.

Good luck with that.

Even as the male continued to sniff its companion, the dead wolf began to change. The hair retreated from its body. Its stature began to shorten, and its features began to take on a human-like form. Within moments, Ro’s instincts were confirmed as the body of a naked woman lay where the wolf had been a moment earlier.

The other beast lifted its head and bared its teeth at her.

“Come on,” she whispered. “Here I am. So tasty and helpless.”

Rather than charge her, though, the wolf looked around as if considering its options.

Damnit! “Not fooling you for a second, am I?” she asked aloud. “Fine. The hard way it is.”

Ro flung the coat off her, revealing her lithe form. In the same movement, she drew her gun. When the dead wolf had shrunk back to human size, it had greatly diminished the cover it provided its companion. She didn’t think she was going to get a clearer shot.

This wolf proved to be much smarter than its companion, however. It reared up to its full height and kicked out, sending the dead woman flying toward Ro just as she pulled the trigger.

Ro dove out of the way, her shot missing by a mile. She rolled and came up to her feet just as the wolf lunged for her. There was no hesitation from it as there had been that night with Dean. This one meant to have its pound of flesh.

That was fine by her. She likewise felt absolutely no sympathy in this fight, either for herself or the creature.

Only one of them would walk away from this.

There was no time to aim properly. She pulled the trigger as she sidestepped, catching a hairy elbow in her midsection, hard enough to almost knock the wind out of her.

She staggered and backpedaled, putting some distance between her and it. Clear shot or not, it was suicide to stay within arm’s reach of a monster like this.

As she did, she saw the creature stumble into the tree line. It put one of its paws over its thigh and let out a brief whimper. She’d winged it.

The male wolf turned toward her wide-eyed, the anger in its eyes replaced by a look of pain and, although she couldn’t be certain, she was convinced she saw fear, too.

It had just enough cover to potentially ruin her shot. She had to finish it off before it could bolt. If it ran, it was unlikely she’d be able to find it again before it could hole up somewhere.

“So, that other mutt?” she asked, hoping this thing was smart enough to understand her. “She your mate, or just your fuck puppy?”

Its eyes narrowed and its lips pulled back from its teeth.

Pride before a fall, motherfucker.

“Sorry to break it to you, Fido, but I’m pretty sure all dogs don’t go to heaven.”

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