Looking Out to Look In – a #HoldOntoTheLight post

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With all the great information circulating around the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign you may be wondering where to start or if you should even just pick a post and read it.  Or if you should avoid the issues all together and stop staring them right in the face every time you look in the mirror.  I’m going to put forth an explanation about why some folks might not go into this topic when it’s obvious that it’s a necessity.  I am challenging real social constructs and ask that you do the same, keeping an open mind while reading my post.  

For the very reasons that I am doing exactly what I’m suggesting you not do, if mental issues are a thing in your life, this post is being written.

It wasn’t until I’d read Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani that I started to see others agreeing with thoughts I’d had about society and belief systems.  In his book, Vishen talks about two concepts that really revolutionized the way we look at society.

He talks about the Culturescape – the sets of rules on how we exist, basically.  Rules that we follow which help us move as a tribe and how to love, how to marry, who to marry, for that matter. The culturescape defines the rules for self esteem and self worth.  It’s deeper than that but keep this idea in mind for a moment.

Vishen also goes into details about Brules – Bullshit Rules that help guide and define us.  An example of a brule is “go to college, get a job after that, get married and live happily.”  In this changing world, that idea is so far fetched and outdated it’s not even funny.

You’re probably wondering why I’m bloviating about these two things when I said in my preface that I’d talk about the whole purpose of the #HoldOntoTheLight campaign.

Because I’ve seen an influx of posts on the subject matter from the 100+ authors Gail Z. Martin has pulled together to bring attention to this and I haven’t read a single fucking one.

Why?  Surely there’s some great knowledge in here.  There has to be some advice that’s solid and applicable to me and my life and my situation.  Some piece of actionable wisdom outside of my normal systems of reality that can help me hack my own mental issues.  Knowing Gail as long as I have, if she brings the authors, she brings the hype because she only knows quality.  So, why would I continue to rip myself off?

See, this is where we come back to the concepts of culturescape and brules.  The culturescape eschews even talking about this issue and for a very good (bullshit) reason. When the mind does what’s familiar, it stays safe.  It keeps the body safe, even if the habits are destructive.

IE – when I left my long term relationship, I realized my life was changing and I was very afraid of what the future held.  I was very afraid of sleeping alone, of going out and being on my own and coming back to an empty space.  Sure, I had sock monkey, but the few relationships I wanted so desperately to maintain had to disappear for a time.  I was afraid of not being able to get to the point I’m at now, because I didn’t know how I’d do it.  I just knew I’d do it at any cost.  That meant if my erratic schedule involved going to the cigar club, getting tight, sleeping until 4 PM the next day, or through most of Thanksgiving and all of Christmas because I’d overindulged, only to take up the next day and handle what work I do have, then so be it.

I had a lot of those nights.

Already, I’ve mentioned that I hit the bottle.  For me, that takes some effort.  I’ve already talked about the range of days and nights I spent in a virtual drunken stupor because I bought the wrong story. I didn’t define who I was, I let society do it.  Even my demons were upset (probably the reason I had them)  I didn’t want to hear other points of view that may have forced me to quit acting in a manner that hurt myself and those around me because I’m not supposed to deal with those issues in public.

Because of a brule – men don’t talk.  Which means, to me, since we don’t talk, we don’t face our demons  head on.  Refusing to read the posts other than the one I’m writing for this doesn’t hurt the authors, and it won’t hurt me in the way we were taught to think about pain.  But facing a fear and having to admit that “hey, I might have a problem and it’s not what you think” is a scary proposition simply because of the existing culturescape.

We deal with depression in this country with medication.  We deal with trauma by lying about it and covering it up with polite terms.  Does anyone remember when PTSD was called “Shell shocked?”

So you think I want to admit the possibility that I might have a screw loose?   I’m a man, I’m not supposed to even worry about nonsense like this.  But, let’s go deeper and start with the reasons.

Oh wait.  another brule comes to mind when talking about my pain vs. someone else’s.  As in, I had a friend years ago, good writer.  Former soldier.  Beautiful redhead.  Served in Iran and Iraq and has her own issues.  Far as my mind says, being shot at by the enemy because she has red hair and is a woman far outweighs my personal BS.  (She and I talked, when talking about pain, realize it’s not a dick swinging contest.  That’s what I took away from her.)

So, why am I still running?  Because I’ve been paying attention to the wrong things.   I won’t bother telling you, dear reader, that it’s better to go seek qualified help, talk to someone, etc.  First, it sounds patronizing and second, my main point in this post was more or less to point out the concepts of brules and culturescapes so that you can really examine your own issues and make the best decisions while being aware that what you may do to help you may seem odd to others.  It may go against what we were taught about our very existence and our roles as defined by the culturescape.  But in bucking the common trends, we may find our own happiness and comfort.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to
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A Hard Subject – A #HoldOnToTheLight post

holdontothelight-fb-bannerYup.  No idea what to write about on this topic because I kept asking myself the question, what’s stopping me from actually following through on letting my self destructive urges win and take me out.

No idea, nothing consistent anyway.  I can tell you that the one year I really was this close to leaping off the ledge, it was thoughts of a girl and a promise that stalled that potential disaster.

I had my world crashed down upon by the ending of my 12 year marriage.  We’d split (mostly) amicably, then left the apartment when financial prodding encouraged us.

Read, we were behind on rent.  It wasn’t the first time, and the last time we’d had to set up a gofundme campaign.  I swore if it happened again, we were done.

When I stayed with a friend of mine, I had gone so far as to tell the authors in my editing stable that I was getting awfully comfortable with the darkness.  I was drinking heavily, for me.  And I wasn’t caring.  Up at all hours, asleep at the other half, at the cigar club  letting myself take the fun out of a hobby.  I remember once calling my mentor at 4 AM,, California time.  She’s an east coast girl, and thankfully, keeps odd hours like I do now.  But it wasn’t a pretty phone call.  My bartenders noticed.  Those I did tell noticed.

When I say those I did tell, I mean no one.  I didn’t talk.  I told a few authors I just didn’t know what the future held, but I never used language to hit at my impending demise because I didn’t actually want to die.

I was lonely.

What fixed it?  How long did it take?

Problem with that is that I’m not sure a fix is possible.  Fast forward three years later, another broken heart, a lot of travel and I get my own apartment.  Tired of looking at my life the way I always had, I needed a change and decided to really jump into personal growth.  I’d stumbled across T Harv Ecker’s Secrets of the Millionaire Mind. That was painful – not because the book is bad, it isn’t.  But it turns out that getting rich, even in our industry, isn’t about how hard we work.   I mean that’s part of it, but real true wealth including the financial riches I’m after, come from a number of factors.

First, what goes into your head
Second, what comes out of your mouth.

What’s ignored is the behavior patterns ingrained from childhood.  Our self defeating demons that are just like everyone else’s until we through in being a writer or an artist on top of that.  Normal shit.  For me, I had a lot of limiting beliefs that were creating self sabotaging behaviors, including overindulging because, fuck it.  Why not?

A training based on that book came into town and I thought, “great.  This will help heal all the damage.”

It was really amazing, and I cleared a lot of dead weight from my shoulders.  I thought I was golden.  I confronted my demons, the ones that let me write romance from a place of true vehement anger.  My writing changed.  My outlook changed.

I discovered Mind Valley Academy and began going through their masterclasses.  I thought this was it.  This was the break from the cycle of insanity.

I was wrong.  But my mental state was shifting.  It wasn’t so dark anymore because I’d started doing the one thing that was the hardest for an alpha male to do.

I started talking.  Really, actually talking.  Not trying to pick up and sleep with women (did that too, can’t take the wolf out of the man…) but actively talking about what’s in my head and telling anyone who was getting close to me.  Then crying, letting the tears flow and then I stopped feeling embarrassed about that shit.

In doing all of this over the last three years, I think I wrote three brand new novels (finishing the Opeth Pack Saga) a few short stories and a new romance series featuring puma shifters and magic.  I had edited two earlier Opeth Pack books, edited a number of other stuff for two publishers, and probably put out 500,000 words over the three year period of traveling the country.  I was busy as hell while I traveled and dealt with this.

I started reclaiming my time.  I started using time I would normally be busy doing some useless thing, to just let it be empty.  Or filling it with more productive things that include learning and being okay with the fact that, at the end of the day, I did not have to kill myself for work, for a book or an ideal of what a writer is supposed to look like.  This decreased my stress.

But studying top preforming people like Tim Ferriss and the people he deconstructs only reinforces one thing, and I suppose that’s probably the key for this post.

Those of us in any creative field are prone whatever behavioral patterns and beliefs we are given until we learn to conquer them.  But if we don’t recognize that this is not something we are alone in, and we don’t do something about it, it’ll never change.

We are a lot alike.  Maybe this post will help, or maybe this one by Tim Ferriss himself can shed some light on things for you.

About the campaign:
#HoldOnToTheLight is a blog campaign encompassing blog posts by fantasy and science fiction authors around the world in an effort to raise awareness around treatment for depression, suicide prevention, domestic violence intervention, PTSD initiatives, bullying prevention and other mental health-related issues. We believe fandom should be supportive, welcoming and inclusive, in the long tradition of fandom taking care of its own. We encourage readers and fans to seek the help they or their loved ones need without shame or embarrassment.
Please consider donating to or volunteering for organizations dedicated to treatment and prevention such as: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Hope for the Warriors (PTSD), National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), Canadian Mental Health Association, MIND (UK), SANE (UK), BeyondBlue (Australia), To Write Love On Her Arms and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.
To find out more about #HoldOnToTheLight, find a list of participating authors and blog posts, or reach a media contact, go to
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Love’s Haunt cover

Aurelia, responsible for watching over her brother Les, has found her mates in the Opeth loveshaunt-187x300Pack, but cannot have them due to her allegiance to the Nobles.  Until she frees Les of that allegiance and makes him see that there is a mate for him, she can only watch from afar.  Les gives her heavy news about the fate of her mates, so Aurelia runs to warn Bianca and Viktor, only to fall in love with both the taller Hungarian and the shorter blonde with the fiery attitude.  As winter hits Albuquerque, it’s revealed that Aurelia has been inhabited by the Flower Maiden, a deity who spreads disease throughout wolf-kind, for a purpose.  She gets her male mate sick, then drains herself in an attempt to heal him, as the Nobles bring the war to the Opeth Pack.

Buy on Amazon

 

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Fall Into Love – Opeth Pack Saga

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Cover Reveal – Kisses Fall

KissesFallFLAT

Book three in the Opeth Pack Saga, out now!

As a witch, Éva’s life with János is interrupted when a stranger named Álmos shows up on her doorstep, looking for hospitality.  He’s claiming to be her pack mate and that she’s truly a wolf who has forgotten her magic.  Her lover János is wary of the newcomer, who unknowingly brings attackers with him that end up making János sick and in need of transportation back to Hungary where the soil contains nutrients to help heal the wolves.  As the three navigate their relationship and figure out how to function in the pack, Éva is shown her truth; she’s a shifter like the others, and she has a sister.  Meanwhile, the threat from the Nobles escalates to the point where one comes after Éva, claiming to be her lover.

Grab your copy on Amazon now!

 

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Out soon – Cover reveal! Opeth Pack Wolves: Raining Kisses, paranormal menage romance

After slaughtering Katarina’s brother and father, along with a handful of other wolves who tried to abuse them, Nicholaus realizes his true darkness and decides to leave Hungary to keep his lovers safe from him.  Relocating to Albuquerque, New Mexico, Nicholaus made a life for himself where he controlled the shots until the Opeth Pack messenger shows up with one of his RainingKisses-paperbackcoverlovers, requesting his assistance back in Hungary.

Katarina’s other lover Krystyna has done something bad, but what, Katarina doesn’t know.  Her heart aches for both her stubborn lovers and forces her to find the courage to venture to America and bring Nicholaus back.  Once the threesome reunites, sparks explode but secrecy threatens to tear the triad apart, as does Prophecy.  Will Nicholaus remain with the two women who hold his heart, or will his lack of control make him return to the States, alone forever?

Excerpt:

Nicholaus mused over how badly some people drove down Central Avenue late at night. Odd that some people were dumb enough to not show good driving skills, knowing the cops in Albuquerque were such fascists about the dumbest things like slightly overshooting a left turn. Even if the wind was blowing hard enough to make driving difficult, which it was tonight, the cops would still pull someone over if they even thought the driver was under the influence.

Thankfully, Nicholaus didn’t have to worry about that problem right now. It took wolves much longer to get drunk.

Watching passing cars drive down Central Avenue was amusing to him. Standing on the balcony of his loft, he puffed on a large cigar, sending clouds of smoke billowing toward the somewhat cloudy sky. Another deep draw sent more smoke off toward the Hyatt Hotels, blurring the red and green lights atop the multi-story towers.

Nicholaus pulled his leather jacket tighter around broad shoulders. He pulled his ponytail free of his collar. Running long fingers through thick hair, he readjusted his ponytail and let it sweep over his slender waist.

A few people walked by, couples sometimes, sometimes groups. Talking, holding hands, laughing or acting drunk, they were all the same to him.

Stupid humans.

Well, most of them. Occasionally he smelled a lone wolf walking down the street, heading toward the nearly hundred and fifty bars located in downtown, most of which resided off Central.

In another hour, dancing would be starting at The Library with the girls and their lovely short plaid schoolgirl skirts. The Coliseum, kitty corner from his loft, had just turned on their lights announcing they were open for the younger, more urban crowd.

How he missed those days, chasing the young skirts, barely old enough to get into a club, let alone buy alcohol. He’d had his share of women hit on him. Alas, he’d turned most of them down, even the ones who practically threw themselves at him. Every once in a while, there had been another wolf who came along, scenting his arousal, hoping she would find a mate. It had been hard shooting down so many beautiful women, but somehow, he’d managed. He felt too old, even then, to be fucking everything that moved and had breasts.

Looking out his balcony, he swore he saw two familiar faces. He leaned his large body over the metal railing and long strands of dark hair fell over his face. He caught sight of a pretty redhead dressed in a white cloak. Her companion, slightly taller with darker red hair, wore form fitting jeans that made her ass look oh so delectable. The first woman wore boots and black jeans and had a young face. The other woman’s tight shirt hugged glorious round breasts snugly, showing some cleavage.

He swore he knew those two—wolves?

“Lukina?” He whispered the word silently.

His breath hitched in his throat. The other wolf…Katarina?

Puffing on his cigar, he blew two thick clouds of smoke down toward the street before stepping back from the edge of the balcony, hoping he hadn’t been seen or scented.

The last thing he wanted to do tonight was revisit an old wound.

He took another long drag from his cigar and set it down on the ash tray, exhaling another large cloud of smoke that circled above his head. Reaching behind him, he grabbed the glass of beer he’d poured and took a long sip, finishing the drink. It was time for bed anyway.

Hell, he wondered what the fuck Lukina and Katarina were doing in New Mexico anyway. And where was his other mate, Krystyna? Last he’d heard, Lukina and Ilona, the two main pack healers, had found the new pack Alpha.

The poor bastard in charge would soon regret his decision. His destiny apparently was to lead the pack to a heaven that didn’t exist.

Slowly he turned and walked into the warmth of his loft.

He shut the glass door, locked it, and went to the bedroom space. While he undressed and pulled back the sheets on his oversized bed his stomach started to sink. Something was up.

God damn it.

Nicholaus crawled into bed and pulled the covers over his head. He didn’t want to deal with whatever was coming his way, even if she was full-figured and had lips like velvet. And damn it, Lukina was with her too. That was never a good sign.

He remembered the last time he’d seen Katarina and closed his eyes with the memories. She was hugging Krystyna, their other lover, tightly. Tears were streaming down both their faces while they waved goodbye to him and begged him not to leave Hungary.

Sighing heavily, he recalled the day after he’d boarded the plane to America. Having to hear more prophetic bullshit from their current Alpha, who happened to be losing his mind, was enough to make anyone want to leave the pack.

The looks on others’ faces when he walked down the dirt streets filled him with trepidation he had no desire to deal with.

After killing Katarina’s brother and father and blacking out, he realized the graveness of his nature. Since then, he’d refused to kill again. Swore the awakening of his true nature was more dangerous to his loved ones and the world at large.

He hated himself for wishing they would forget him. It drove him mad to think he could forget his wolf nature. But he despised himself as a wolf. At least the humans didn’t have the pull of murder.

Yeah, they killed. Sure, there were numerous hopeless cases out there. But the majority of humans he’d come in contact with seemed decent.

He was still unable to stand how the only true love he’d ever received came from them. Even now, twenty five years later, it burned him to think of how he’d rejected their love by leaving Hungary and the pack.

“Oh well.” He sighed heavily and rolled over to one side. Fluffing his pillow, he rested his head on it and prayed for dreamless sleep.

 

* * * *

 

Jarred from sleep by a loud knocking sound at his door, Nicholaus shouted, “All right damn it! I’m coming!”

Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, Nicholaus shook loose the kinks in the legs of his lounge pants and padded toward the door. He remembered who he’d seen earlier and his stomach sank. He did not need a visit from Lukina or Katarina.

Especially Katarina.

Slipping his robe over his shoulders, he belted it and brushed long strands of hair out of his face. A quick glance at the clock told him it was well after two a.m. Hell, he sniffed feminine scents and alcohol from the door. Shit. He didn’t have time to fully open the door before a pair of tiny arms and a flurry of hair assaulted him.

“Nicholaus!”

Caught off balance, he stumbled a few steps back; Lukina wrapped her arms around his frame before he could catch himself against the wall. “Lukina, what brings you and,” he glanced at Katarina and narrowed his eyes, “her here at this hour?”

Lukina pulled away and looked up at him with a smile. Her ruby red lips were kissable; the bastard who loved her was certainly blessed. “We thought we’d visit our favorite missing pack brother.”

“Bullshit, Lukina. Whenever you show up, something is always wrong. You always have bad news. What do you want?”

She let go and stepped back, raising her chin to meet his gaze. Deep ocean blue eyes held an angry stare. “I’m not fond of being the messenger, but it’s what I am, apparently, at the moment. Also, I don’t bring bad news. I bring—”

He cleared his throat. “Don’t say it. Prophecy, right?”

She nodded. “I hate how the universe has chosen to send messages, but it’s the way things work. Like Józsi, and Marco before him, deal with it.”

Les’s words still rang true. He’d set shit in motion, obviously. She could be so grown up at times that it was almost irritating. “And Katarina?”

Moving strands of hair out of her face, she looked up. Her pout said it all; she was still angry with him. Her features had filled out nicely, he noted as she rubbed her arms together, covering taut nipples beneath her blouse. “I am not here of my own volition. I wouldn’t have come here if she hadn’t insisted.”

He nodded. “I understand.” His heart ached at the thought that she didn’t want to see him as much as he wanted to see her.

Lukina shoved her way past Nicholaus with a force that bumped him into the wall with oomph.

“What do you think you’re doing, little girl?” He straightened his shoulders and stalked after her.

She looked over her shoulder and glared. “Letting myself in, since you’re such a rude host.”

He put his hand to his forehead. “I wouldn’t be a rude host if I had known to expect company.”

“You did know. We smelled your cigars earlier.”

He swallowed hard. “Damn it,” he mumbled under his breath. “What do you want?”

“We need you to come home—” Lukina started to speak, but Katarina’s hand flew over Lukina’s mouth. Lukina caught Katarina’s hand and met her stare, then looked back at Nicholaus. “We have a situation.”

A shudder raced through him but he managed to keep his voice even. “What? Tell me what’s going on, Katarina.”

She met his stare with wide eyes. Standing before him with her chest nearly busting out of her black top reminded him how good she always looked. Long red hair had been pulled back out of her face, but tears formed in the pools of her beautiful green eyes. She shivered and hugged herself.

When she wouldn’t respond, he strode toward her, grabbed his former mate by the elbow and tugged her inside, urging Lukina to follow. “Get in here, both of you.” He shut the door and watched Katarina’s expression.

She stopped, stared down the white walled corridor that banked off to the left, then back out the window in front of her almost in a daze. She wasn’t tracking, clearly.

The heater kicked on, a low rumble that startled Katarina. She looked up at the huge vents and aluminum piping overhead.

“Heater, drágám.” He pointed up at the large silver vent.

She nodded.

“Got anything to drink?” Lukina pushed past them and headed toward the living area.

Nicholaus shifted his gaze on Lukina. “You’re not old enough to drink, little girl. Not in this country, nor among the humans.”

Her boots stopped and echoed on the concrete floor. She looked over her shoulder, glared at him and then strode down the hall. “It’s been a long enough time that I am legal now.  Besides, we don’t and have never abided by their laws, remember? Or have you lived among them too long and forgotten our ways?”

Ouch. He sighed heavily. “There’s an open bottle of port on the counter. Bring three glasses.”

Lukina sauntered around the corner toward the kitchen, leaving Nicholaus alone with Katarina in the long hallway.

Musk and earth wafted over his nose, along with the keen smell of wolf hovering just below the surface of her smooth, dark skin. How she managed to hide the extra magic she possessed amazed him. He wondered if she’d come into her full power yet. By the scent of her aura, he’d guessed she hadn’t.

He stared into her eyes, searched their depths and wanted to beg her forgiveness instantly. In a second, he shut the thought down and forced himself to refocus his energy and thoughts on why they were here.

In the twinkle of her eyes, he swore he saw tears forming. Yet she met his stare once again with an upturned chin, before turning around, glancing at the floor and walking away.

Nicholaus let out a harsh breath, pulled her into his arms and held her head against his chest.

Slowly, Katarina wrapped her arms around him and let her hands search for comfort.

Fingers caressed his skin and sent a tremor through him. He looked down, kissed the top of her head gently. Her skin shouldn’t have been this cold; her inner wolf should have given her plenty of body heat. She hadn’t eaten obviously. “Hug me, szerető.

Her grip around him tightened until she was flush with him. Her head nestled in the crook of his neck.

Slowly, Nicholaus caressed her hair, tugged at the braid of silken smoothness. Suddenly, his nose picked up the sweet, earthen scents of Hungary.

Of home.

Warm tears fell on his shoulder.

Drágám, what’s wrong?”

“Get me that drink and we’ll talk.” She spoke low into his shoulder, her words vibrating along his skin. Even in tears, her voice caressed his ears like a siren song.

Igen.” He helped her around the corner, down the hallway, and sat her down on his leather couch against a wall with large windows that overlooked 6th Street.

She turned around, looking out through the wall of windows before her gaze returned to him. Katarina sniffled, wiped her nose with the back of her sleeve and set her hands down in her lap. “The mountains off in the distance are nice. This is some view you have.”

He nodded. “Indeed.”

Lukina joined them and handed them both glasses filled with port.

Nicholaus took his glass, sniffed it and inhaled the aromas of dark berry, raisin and tobacco. After only a sip, he set his glass down on the table beside the couch. “Will this help your nerves?”

Katarina looked at Lukina.

Lukina nodded and took a sip of port. “It’s safe here.”

Katarina nodded again, tentatively picked up her glass and looked at the dark red alcohol. Bringing the glass to her lips, she downed the entire contents in one shot. “Another, please.”

“Okay.” Lukina took her glass and refilled it. She looked up at Nicholaus, “We have business to discuss, Nicholaus.”

He moved closer to Katarina, aware of her free hand now in his and how tight she gripped him. “I gathered that. Is this going to be a really long night? It’s already after two AM.”

“Well,” Lukina paused, took another sip and then set her glass on the coffee table. “It depends.”

He sighed, arching a brow in irritation. He’d once heard on the open mental channel between the pack that when Lukina showed up, she’d become the new pack messenger. Hearing from her usually meant terrible things were on the way. While he’d not maintained contact with anyone from the Opeth Pack, he’d still been informed of goings on through the mental pathways where words traveled with less restriction. “On what?”

“On whether you decide to help us or not.” Lukina’s stare pierced through any hope he had for a short and simple resolution.

“Of course,” Nicholaus finished his glass and handed it to Lukina. “Refill it.” Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he looked down at the hand in his, let his gaze travel up Katarina’s arm and stopped at her face. Tears silently slid down her cheeks from dark green eyes, making him ache to kiss those tears away like he had so many times in the past.

He shook the thought off. This was a new land and he was not pack.

Lukina acknowledged him, refilled all three glasses then planted herself in the chair beside the couch. “You’ll want to sit for this.”

He shook his head, “I prefer to stand, thank you.” At least he did until he’d glanced at Katarina’s sad, desperate eyes. “Okay, I’ll have a seat beside Katarina.”

Nicholaus moved a pillow, plopped down beside Katarina. Reluctantly, he threw his arm around her. When she didn’t flinch at the contact, he pulled her closer. He found her body temperature warming slightly, probably from the alcohol.

As upset as he was for having his sleep interrupted, he couldn’t help himself. Snuggling closer to Katarina seemed natural, save for the absence of Krystyna on his other side as the third in their supposedly undying bond. “What’s so important?”

Lukina crossed her legs, looked back toward the mountains in the distance. “I love what you’ve done with the place.” She reached for her port.

Gritting his teeth, Nicholaus leaned forward. “While I don’t mind the interruption of former pack mates, I do mind losing sleep. So you’d better start telling me why you’re both here.”

Katarina began sobbing on his shoulder.

Smoothing a hand down her back, he pulled her tighter to him, holding her and rocking her back and forth gently just like he used to do when they were younger.

Her tears pooled on his shoulder. He used the cloth of the robe to gently wipe away her tears, then pushed her back and looked into her large, round eyes. It hit him then. “Where is Krystyna?” Another pack healer, she shared in the triad that should have included Nicholaus and Katarina before he left.

Lukina lifted her head. “You know we have a new Alpha.”

“Yes. And?”

“Józsi took over after he killed Kiba. The necessity of his ascending to the rank of Alpha is predicating Prophecy is coming true, despite some stubborn males’,” she almost spat the last two words out, “desire to avoid responsibility.”

He lowered his gaze. “I could care less about prophecy. Where is Krystyna?”

“Prophecy has dictated that Józsi would rule our pack for a time until his rule has passed. In such time, we would have great enemies.”

He narrowed his focus to just Lukina, glaring sharp daggers at her. She clearly wanted to remind him of duties he shirked years ago and nothing more. The least she could do was answer his question. “Again,” his impatience ran thin by now, “You’re quoting bullshit nobody need bother me with. Where. Is. Krys?”

“She’s been kidnapped.” Katarina blurted the words out, and then began to sob.

Nicholaus stiffened and felt his blood turn cold. “What? How the hell could that be? She’s a strong warrior and can fend off any attackers. Who did this and who let this happen?”

Katarina sobbed louder and fell forward onto his lap.

“Son of a bitch…Who let this happen?” Nicholaus shifted his weight on the couch so he lay against the arm. He pulled Katarina into his embrace, stroked her sides and arms in an attempt to calm her.

She rested her head against his stomach and wrapped both arms around him while his robe muted her cries.

Nicholaus ran his fingers through her long dark red hair. He massaged her scalp, tried to send calming energy into her but found himself unable, probably from exhaustion. Of course he hadn’t had to use much energy since he’d been in the States.

No need when you rarely went out other than to function as a human and occasionally as a wolf.

Of course his body couldn’t ignore the fact that her head was by his hardening groin. Of course he’d felt the throes of lust the second he’d spotted her earlier but he’d refused to acknowledge them, preferring to retire alone with his hand for the night.

Her nails dug into his bicep, bringing him back to the matter at hand.

“You did.” Lukina glared back at him, daggers in her gaze.

He stiffened. “Little girl—”

Lukina loomed forward, hard to do for such a little girl compared to Nicholaus, but she still could cut down a grown man with her sharp tongue. “No, you left, you bastard. You left your mates to die at the hands of a murderous Alpha just like my bastard mate did before we recovered him.” Lukina’s voice rose in pitch, indicative of her infamous temper.

Nicholaus’s jaw set. Yes, her seething expression put him off but he couldn’t be bothered with that. The first course of action was to figure out who kidnapped Katarina’s lover. “Skip the past bullshit, woman. Who took her?”

He tried again to ease Katarina’s sorrow but found himself lacking in the energy department. The heat in the room rose along with Lukina’s seething expression.

“The males of this pack are fucking stupid.” She cocked her hand back to toss the glass toward the island in his kitchen.

Before he clenched his fists, Katarina lifted her head.

In an instant, the air calmed, Lukina’s energy waned and things returned to normal.

Surely this was Katarina’s healing power.

“I’m sorry.” Lukina drew out a sigh. “I’m just so frustrated.” She closed her eyes, let her shoulders relax, then faced Nicholaus. “A rival pack is waging war against us, Nicholaus. They’re trying to throw the Hungarian wolves out of our lands. They’ve succeeded already by overtaking a few of the smaller packs on the outskirts of the country and have decided to move inward.”

“Do you know who is leading them?”

She shook her head. “No, not a clue. We know it’s a bunch of Turkish wolves and that the night I left to come back for Józsi and Ilona, they ransacked the village Krystyna was healing in. They kidnapped her and a few others who were loyal to Kiba.”

“Kiba’s dead now. It shouldn’t matter.” He rubbed his chin and breathed out a sigh.

“Right. But we’re a new pack now with Józsi coming into his true position.”

Nicholaus rubbed his chin. “So what now?”

“We need you to come back with us and assume your position beside Józsi.”

The blood in his veins turned to ice. He stiffened, jerked back against the couch and felt like he’d been punched in the gut. No. Not again. That was not the fate he’d had in mind for himself. Quiet retirement among the humans suited him better than being the one responsible for more blood being spilled. “I don’t understand. You can’t mean…”

“You have a gift. You used it to protect your lovers once. You can—”

“I used it to protect them, but I had to deal with the aftermath and fall out. Do you know what it’s like being an outcast? Because you did what supposedly came natural to you? We’re killers and aggressors, Lukina. That is our nature.”

“And we’re pack mates and a family. That is also our nature.”

Katarina’s words stunned him into silence.

“You don’t have to,” she sniffled, “If you don’t want to but…”

He didn’t want to hear this shit. Not after what Lukina was asking of him.

“You don’t have to come back and slaughter an entire hoard, that’s what I’m saying,” Lukina cut into his thoughts. “We need all the males we can get to help. Józsi as Alpha is doing the best he can but he’s only helping us build and gather resources while we go out and find the lost members of this pack. Some of you didn’t leave by choice.”

“You say that as though my leaving was a bad thing.”

Lukina glared.

He looked away, turning his gaze on the mountains in the distance. At this hour, the urban hip hop club was shut down and their neon blue lights had been turned off. Street lights remained the only way humans could see. His wolf’s vision trumped humans and allowed him to see into the mountains. He sighed, unable to fathom the consequences of what Lukina asked of him.

“Has the pack not solidified under Józsi’s rule to become a force again?”

Lukina shook her head. “He’s having trouble adjusting, going through mood swings, addictions, time differences and relearning the cycle of what it means to be a wolf. Something some of us will never forget.”

He didn’t miss the bite of her words. Nicholaus narrowed his eyes. “Go on.”

“So yes, we have a new, non-crazy Alpha but he acts erratically sometimes. No, before you ask, he’s not sick. He’s not adjusting well.”

Józsi never wanted the position of pack alpha?”

“No. But he can’t fight fate.” Katarina lifted her head again and met Nicholaus’s gaze. Her green eyes burned with desperation, pleading with him to ask more questions.

”No,” he sighed heavily, rested a hand on the back of Katarina’s head, “I suppose no one can in the end, can they?”

She shook her head. “It’s all you have to do. Come home. No one is asking you to use your gift, just give us one more able body in search of Krystyna.”

The syrupy softness in her voice made his heart pound. Imagine that, after all this time.

Not like he’d ever forget.

She batted her eyelashes.

Air fled his lungs at the simple gesture. Yes, she would use her body to pull him; all the women of the pack did that with their true mates. Nicholaus fought the urge to swallow, lest he show fear and renege on his vow to avoid pack politics.

Her hand slithered up his chest, fingers spread.

Warmth flooded his chest, spread throughout each limb, including the one currently cradled beneath her belly and his pants. “This isn’t fair, Katarina.”

“Neither was letting us go, but you did it anyway.”

Even she could hold onto spite. Tilting his head, Nicholaus closed his eyes, let himself succumb to the comfort of her power before it sunk into his body. He saw the fertile lands of Hungary, the smell of Lake Balaton on the wind. Then he saw the village and the faces of those who feared him after he’d slaughtered her family in cold blood. He’d heard the screams from her brother and father, his teeth remembered the feel of soft flesh filling his mouth along with their blood.

The eyes of those lecherous men vowing revenge on him kept him awake at night. And now they stared back at him, wicked grins across their distorted faces.

Laughter, maniacal and high pitched, echoed through the night.

“You’re the one who could be the downfall of our entire race if we let you ascend to your position and impregnate them. We do what we do to these girls out of protection.”

“Never!” Nicholaus found his voice though his throat was parched. He remembered very clearly rushing Katarina’s father first, then things went dark.

Nothing, not even the pale moonlight shining brightly could erase that memory.

Then, the vision was gone, returning him to see Lukina standing in front of him, glass precariously held with two fingers while her eyes were closed and she drew in steady, slow breaths.

“You’re seeing something incorrectly again, aren’t you?”

He looked down at Katarina, felt, rather than saw her body curl into his.

“I’m seeing nothing.”

“Fine,” she sighed. “Come home, please?”

Nicholaus closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. Her ability to make him function when he didn’t want to kept him going after he’d murdered her father and brother. She had been the calm to force his hand, make him get out of bed daily. At least until he stopped visiting and decided to make haste to America. “What can I do that others cannot?”

“You have more power and physical strength. You have a distance from the events we do not. Józsi would trust your word, drágám. You would be able to help steady him and provide us with one more pillar of strength. Józsi needs that, as does the pack.”

Nicholaus blinked and waved a hand beside his face. “Let me get this straight. You want me back to help rescue Krystyna and stabilize a pack that has turned its back on me? Fuck that shit.”

“It didn’t turn on you. It feared you.” Katarina’s soft voice cut through the red he began seeing.

“You’re right. They did fear me. Then they ostracized me. So I did the only responsible thing I could.”

Lukina walked back toward the kitchen, brought back a whiskey bottle. She refilled all three glasses, “You don’t get it, do you? They didn’t fear you; they feared the unknown. Your behavior was no longer consistent because the change forced you to fucking grow up!”

Katarina moved, rolled to her side and cuddled closer. “You only needed—”

“Skip it.”

“Fine.” She huffed and reached for the now full glass. Bringing herself to a sitting position, Katarina took a sip of the whiskey, wiped her lips with the back of her hand, then faced Nicholaus. “You are going to remain hard, aren’t you?”

He didn’t reply. What was there to be said? The choices he’d made in life were the ones best for everyone else. Prophecy be damned!

Of course it would have helped him to know what fate he was truly avoiding by living a solitary existence. Without the large details, he could only remove himself, thus keeping his mates safe from the danger of his rage.

He’d done well too. Only lost it a few times and his opponents happened to be other wolves.

Well except for that one man.

He didn’t kill him though.

But still, the potential for overwhelming violence to his mates had been removed by his relocating to Albuquerque.

Ultimately, he thought he was removing the threat to his lovers, but he guessed not. “What happened after Józsi took over?”

Lukina planted herself in the thick leather chair beside the couch. “After Józsi killed Kiba and returned back with Ilona and I, we put him through training. He made the choice to bring in an interim of three of our strongest to rule, but that proved a mistake. Those wolves were lecherous, traitors. He had no choice but to banish two of them.”

“The other?” Nicholaus knew where this was headed.

“He killed first.”

“Nicholaus, you look shocked. Why?”

He glanced at Katarina and saw his reflection in her eyes. Indeed he looked stunned, though he shouldn’t have. Their species wasn’t all flowers and candy canes. They were wolves. Bred by the Goddess, designed to hunt, kill, eat, fuck, and repeat until death.

“We’re not monsters, Nicholaus. Those who would do harm for bad reasons are the monsters.”

He shook his head, “I know. It’s just…”

“Just what?” Lukina leaned forward, crossed one leg over the other. “You can’t even face your mates with any of the shit in your head. Why are you embarrassed?”

He stiffened, clenched his teeth and glared at the little redhead. She’d grown more emboldened with age. How irritating. “You would do well to end this now, Lukina.”

“Or what? I laid into Józsi and you’re not my Alpha.”

“No but you would do well to remember you’re a guest in my house. And I can throw you out now if I so choose.”

Katarina set her glass on the table before them. She looked at Lukina, “Please save your vendetta for later. We need to catch flies, not burn bridges, sweet wolf princess.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, Lukina huffed and leaned back into the plush chair. “I’ll hold my tongue out of respect for you, but your mate has his head up his ass.”

What the hell was he supposed to do now? Obviously Lukina had a grudge, not that he could blame her. There were a few other mates missing from the pack, but mostly the males had fled responsibility out of—well who knew truly? He had his reasons.

Swallowing his pride, Nicholaus leaned back, forcing himself to relax. How he felt like a prisoner in his own home was beyond him, but once the wolf princess showed up on your doorstep, regardless of time, it meant shit needed doing. “Fine, what is the minimal I can do?”

“Your gracious offering is most generous,” Lukina snorted.

“I have a life here. I live here. Outside the pack, away from all that.”

“Yeah, you ran. I get it. But we need you.”

He turned his head. “No one needs me.” The words came out more or less a low whispered growl.

Katarina slid down the length of his body, pressed her breasts into his thighs. Then, she looked up, set her hands on his legs and pulled him to her. “I’ll always need you, szertõm.”

Again, comforting warmth surrounded him and his skin lit up with the colors of their combined aura.

He closed his eyes, not caring to see their auras blend. It’d be one more thing to drag him back to a life he couldn’t live with.

“Have you truly grown that complacent, Nicholaus?” Katarina’s thumb traced circles on his thigh.

He shook his head. Complacent wasn’t the proper phrase, more like didn’t give a damn. But his body language should have made that clear. “I told you, I washed my hands of that shit years ago.”

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PRINT Cover Reveal – His Reign: Paranormal Menage Romance

HisReign-CScoverrevealThought I’d drop this out for you folks. I have the print gallery on my desk and it’s time to share.  THIS is the final home for The Opeth Pack Saga – my Menage series dealing with a legendary wolf pack from Hungary.  

The inspiration for the series started out as me being disillusioned with the ending for the anime “Wolf’s Rain.”  I liked the series, but it was so heavy and the moments of happy were fleeting, as were the moments of hope for the heroes.  SPoiler alert, shit breaks bad, very bad.

Eventually I’ll update the actual Wix site with new covers and more fun facts but for now, here’s the cover for the PRINT release!

Oh, and don’t forget, the book is LIVE on June 2nd, so grab your copy on AMAZON and have it delivered then!

Blurb:  Destiny didn’t have to suck. Not if you could run six thousand miles away to escape what was supposed to be your fate. Józsi wants to maintain a normal life, away from the politics and Prophecy of the Opeth Pack. Moving from Hungary to Texas was a huge change but a needed one in order to escape the fate of wolves that would ultimately put him in charge of a dying pack he wanted nothing to do with.

Ilona and Lukina grew up loving Józsi while preparing to accept their roles as Opeth pack healers even as he left them ten years earlier. Unafraid of fate and supportive of the things brought on by Prophecy; they found themselves facing the current pack Alpha in his madness. With the current climate change and insanity causing harm to the pack’s females, including Ilona, Lukina makes the choice to reunite the triad, even if it’s just to deal with the current regime.

When Lukina appears on Józsi’s doorstep, he must decide if returning to Hungary is because he wants to reunite with his lovers, or because of sworn duty to them. Will he make the right choice even at the cost of his freedom or will he let his triad down by returning to Houston, alone?

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