I love this one so much…I had actually finished it before Thanksgiving. Because it was my first time placing a book on pre-order, I didn’t realize that the release date was pretty much set in stone. I knew that the Amazon frowned on being late publishing the book, but I hadn’t known that I also wasn’t able to publish earlier than the designated release date. So, I was stuck with February 15th. Which is fine. I’m not 100% sure what the pre-release orders will do for me, but I figured that it will capture those that first read Menagerie and want to read the sequel. Remember how we had to wait a year for the next installment of Harry Porter and the Hunger Games? So glad those days are over…
By Kristy Tate
Lizbet and Declan are on the brink of their lives. After graduation, Declan plans on leaving for college, but his world is turned upside down when his grandfather is attacked by wolves. Lizbet draws upon her ability to communicate with animals to try and find the wolves responsible, but she soon discovers the wolves have terrifying abilities of their own, capable of destroying not only Lizbet and Declan’s plans for their future but also their hearts.
Coyote is always out there waiting, and Coyote is always hungry. – Navajo
On the sort of spring evening that lasts forever, when the sun’s fading into blackness stretches for hours, Declan tried to convince himself that time really could be harnessed, and the simple pleasure he found walking beside Lizbet and listening to her laugh would last as long as they both lived. And yet his errand reminded him that bits and pieces of life could be fleeting, that nothing lasts forever, and things could change as quickly as the weather. But fortunately, at that moment, the finicky Pacific Northwest sky sported a few wispy clouds and a promise of a cool, clear night.
“Are you sure you want to wait?” Declan asked.
“What else am I going to do?” Lizbet asked. “Besides, hanging in a bookstore is one of my favorite things to do.”
“I feel weird having you walk me to my grandfather’s house.” He skated a glance at her, wondering what his grandfather would think of Lizbet’s curly hair, elfin features, tiny build, and bright green eyes. His mom called Lizbet a wild child, which was, given her strange upbringing, an apt description. “It’s supposed to go the other way, right?”
“What do you mean?” Lizbet turned to him.
He wanted to kiss her, but after a quick peek at his grandfather’s imposing brick mansion on the other side of the long stretch of lawn beyond the wrought-iron gate, he tucked his hands into his pockets to stop himself from reaching out to her. “I’m the guy,” he said. “I’m supposed to walk you home.”
“But neither of us are going home. I’m going to the bookstore, and you’re stalling.”
“I’m not stalling.”
She placed her hands on his chest to keep him away. “Yes, you are. We’ve been walking down this street at turtle speed…”
He wrapped his hands around her wrists, holding her close. “He’s going to think I’m hitting him up for money.”
“Why do you say that?”
Declan sucked in a breath. “He’s going to ask about college, so I’ll have to tell him about Duke, and that will lead to a conversation about money.”
“If I were you, I’d rather talk about money than your stepfather.”
“True that.” Declan didn’t like to think of, let alone speak about, his stepfather. Fortunately for him, although unfortunately for his stepfather’s business, Gaylord Godwin had been missing for weeks.
“But you’re not your stepfather, and you don’t have to talk about money. You can steer the conversation in any direction you wish.”
A rustling in the bushes caught Declan’s attention. The giant rhododendrons bordering the lawn shivered before falling still.
Lizbet followed his gaze, her expression curious and baffled.
“Probably a cat,” Declan said.
Lizbet shook herself and tucked her hands into her sweater pockets. “I don’t think so… It would have been a really big cat.”
“A dog then,” Declan said, dismissing it. “Are you going to be okay walking to the bookstore?”
Lizbet smirked. “I don’t know… This is a pretty sketchy neighborhood.” She waved at the turn-of-the-last-century mansions, tree-lined street, and manicured lawns before taking his hand in hers and squeezing it. “Visiting your grandfather is the kind thing to do. Remember, this is for him, not you. I’ll be fine and so will you. And more importantly, so will your grandfather.”
But Declan knew that wasn’t true. The whole reason he stood on the street outside his grandfather’s house was because the old man wasn’t fine. His days were numbered. According to his nurse, Frank Forsythe only continued to live because he was too ornery to die.
“He scares me,” Declan admitted.
“I think you could take him on,” Lizbet said with a grin.
“Physically, but probably not intellectually.”
“If he tries to play chess, just run.” Lizbet put her hands on Declan’s shoulders and turned him so he faced the front gate.
“That would be cowardly…” Declan shuffled his feet.
Lizbet gave his back a gentle push.
The bushes shook again and this time Declan caught sight of an enormous gray tail beating the bright red flowers before disappearing into the shrubs. “That’s a huge dog.”
“I’m not scared of a dog,” Lizbet assured him.
“What if my grandfather gets talking and I can’t get away before the bookstore closes? I can’t leave you in the dark by yourself while a giant dog runs loose, terrorizing the neighborhood.” Declan balked at the black wrought-iron gate that separated his grandfather’s house from the rest of the world.
“For one thing, no one is terrorized. And another, this is the Pacific Northwest. It’s June, the longest day of the year is only a few weeks away. We have another two hours, at least, of daylight. And if your grandfather gets extra chatty, I’ll take a bus home.” She reached around him and pushed open the gate. “Now, march up to that door and act chummy. He’s old, he’s sick, and he wants to meet you.”
Declan nodded, and after a quick backward glance at Lizbet, the girl who had become the center of his world, headed up the walkway.
As much as the bookstore tempted Lizbet, curiosity made her pause at the edge of Frank Forsythe’s property near the now-still rhododendrons. Cocking her head, she listened for the dog that belonged to the great furry tail she’d spotted earlier. She shot Declan a quick peep. He stood on the porch with his hands shoved into his pockets, his back to her.
“Hello?” Lizbet whispered into the bushes. Silence. She scanned the trees lining the property, expecting to catch the attention of a squirrel or even a bird, but couldn’t find a creature in sight. A chill crawled down her back. “Hello?” she called a smidge louder.
The bushes rustled again and Lizbet searched for the cause. A rabbit, a chipmunk, even a skunk—there had to be an animal around. Why wasn’t anyone responding? She gave the house another glance, but Declan had disappeared from the porch.
She hadn’t heard the front door open, but that must have been what had happened. The nurse, Teddy, had been expecting him. Lizbet let out a little sigh of relief, pulled her sweater a bit tighter, and headed for the Blarney Bookstore.
The University District was an eclectic mix of shops catering to the UW’s students, and the historic homes of the professors and Seattle’s business professionals. Lizbet’s sandals made a flopping sound as she walked and she told herself that the eerie echo wasn’t in any way sinister. But goosebumps rose on her skin as she scanned the yards, trees, and shrubbery for signs of life.
Where was everyone? The only reason she knew for the animals to desert an area was a forest fire, and the warm humidity held only a spark of the imagination. Unfortunately, Lizbet’s imagination was running wild. She tried to rein it in as she headed for the bookstore.
When only silence answered the door, Declan had stepped off the porch to peek in the window. He’d never been inside his grandfather’s house so he didn’t know what to expect. The Oriental rugs, wingback chairs, and pastoral paintings didn’t surprise him. The overturned table, shattered vase, and flowers strewn across the wood floor did. He rapped on the window. Just like when he’d knocked on the door, no one answered.
He cast another look around for Lizbet and spotted her at the intersection at the end of the street. Should he call out to her? What if someone had broken into his grandfather’s home? What if that someone was still in the house? The farther away Lizbet was, the safer she was. Squaring his shoulders and refusing to jump to conclusions, Declan jogged toward the back of the house. A shoulder-high brick wall enclosed the backyard. When he couldn’t find a gate, he scrambled over the wall and landed hard on his feet. His breathing accelerated as he picked up his pace. A quick peek in the windows told him the living and dining room were both empty. A motion–sensor light flicked on when he reached the patio. Everything in the backyard screamed quiet and peaceful elegance. It was hard to imagine his grandfather had met any violence. The windows were intact, but the back door hung ajar.
Declan reached into his pocket and fingered his phone, debating whether he should call the police. He poked his head through the door. The kitchen with its tall white cabinetry, scrubbed oak table, and gleaming stainless-steel appliances looked like it belonged in a magazine. But a large butcher knife lay on the floor, surrounded by a smattering of… What was that?
Declan pushed inside for a better look, then, with trembling fingers, he called his mom.
Lizbet finally spotted an owl perched on a branch of a giant maple tree. It was early for an owl, but that was only one of the things out of place on this strange evening. Lizbet glanced up and down the street, making sure that she and the owl were alone. “Where is everyone?” she asked.
The owl swiveled his head in her direction and blinked at her. “The wolves have returned,” he said with a hoot as if this should answer all her questions.
“The wolves? In the University District?” Her mind tripped back to the large gray tail she’d spotted in Frank Forsythe’s rhododendrons. Why would there be wolves close to the city center? Wolves belonged in the woods or near pastures where the slow and easy prey lived.
The owl blinked again and nodded.
“All the animals have disappeared because of the wolves?” Lizbet pressed.
“I suggest you do the same.”
“Why are you here?”
“I am a sentinel. We owls have always been so.”
“Admirable,” Lizbet murmured. She pressed her mouth closed when an elderly couple walking a Standard Poodle appeared at the end of the street. She watched as the poodle sat down and refused to budge. The woman tugged on the leash and reprimanded the stubborn dog. After a moment, the man took the lead, but the dog remained obstinate. The man pulled, but the poodle sat on his haunches while his collar threatened to pop off his furry head.
She turned back to the owl. “Do you know where the wolves are now?”
The owl lifted one wing and pointed at the Forsythe house.
Lizbet ran and her sandals slapped the sidewalk.
She stopped short when a giant gray wolf appeared on the sidewalk. His solid muscles rippled beneath silvery fur. His broad shoulders were powerful and his flanks sturdy. He lowered his head and emitted a low growl. “What…who are you?” she asked the wolf.
He didn’t answer but stared at her with blazing green eyes. It occurred to Lizbet that he was trying to scare her. She balled her fists and planted them on her hips. “Answer me!” She raised her voice and tried to infuse it with authority. “Who are you and what do you want?”
The creature flicked his tail before turning and sauntering into the shadowy twilight. She stared after him for half a second before opening the wrought-iron gate, rushing down the walkway, climbing the steps to the front porch, and rapping on the door.
Declan answered, his face pale. Silently, he widened the door to let her in. “I thought you were the police.” His voice wavered.
“Why? What happened?”
Declan nodded over his shoulder. A newscaster’s voice floated through an open door and light flickered from a TV screen in a room off the hall.
Lizbet started for it, but Declan put a warning hand on her arm, stopping her. “Don’t,” he said.
“Well, for one thing, I vomited in there. And another…”
“And Teddy, his nurse.”
“Are they dead?” Lizbet whispered, although she didn’t know why.
Lizbet put her fingers to her lips, because she knew it wasn’t grizzly—not like a bear—but wolfish, like a giant gray wolf.