Catch the extended excerpt below and enter to win copies of the first FOUR books in the series, too!
Then early one morning Alexei goes jogging in Central Park in an effort to get back his strength to fight the Russian First. He finds a prostitute on a park bench covered in newspaper and not moving. Bearing in mind his recent ordeal Alexei decides to help the boy. He lifts up the newspaper and finds a needle hanging out of his arm. The boy is dying of an overdose and he’s Alexei’s Mate.
Four years ago
Ominous dark gray clouds rolled in. Snow came down as small ice pellets that cut like glass shards on the skin. They swirled around the mourners as they stood over the twin coffins. A northeast wind blew over the loup garou cemetery outside of Moscow. It cut through the thickest coats and scarves. Alexei Davidoff shivered in his beaver coat and hat. His Enforcers lowered the bodies of his former Chief Beta and his Beta’s Mate into the ground. Newly joined, they were dead for the crime of being gay and holding hands in a public square in Moscow.
“This cannot stand. There has to be an answer to this, someone has to stand up against these thugs.” Alexei moved his platinum hair off his face. His navy blue eyes flashed both anguish and resolve.
“The perpetrators were human, one of the government’s army of gay bashers, Alpha. There is nothing we can do. We cannot harm a human, and the government gives us no recourse to law.” The Beta shook his head.
“When is the next protest?” Alexei paced across the icy ground in front of the graves.
“Tomorrow at noon, in the square,” Vasily Yudin, Alexei’s new Chief Beta said reluctantly.
“I will be there.” Alexei watched Vasily’s expression. His body folded in on itself in resignation. Alexei knew Vasily realized it was useless to argue. He saw that his Alpha had made up his mind. Alexei could tell his Betas were scheming to mitigate the damage.
“We’ll go with you, Alpha.” Vasily gestured to Grigory and the six Enforcers in the funeral party.
“No, I will go alone.” Alexei clenched his fists and set his jaw in defiance.
“Alpha, it’s dangerous. We can’t let you go alone. If the FSB picks you up, there is no guarantee that the council will be able to negotiate your release. Please, both Grigory and I think you should let us and the Enforcers go with you, or you should stay at home. The FSB under the current president is worse than the KGB that preceded them. Peter and Sasha wouldn’t have wanted you to put yourself in danger. There is no helping them now.”
“I cannot let this go unanswered, Vasily. The man who did this wasn’t even arrested despite the fact that I reported the assault. I must protest to the authorities. We have an obligation to try to right this wrong. He was one of mine, one of my household, my personal staff. I am responsible.”
“But, Alpha, we can’t let you go alone into a dangerous situation,” Grigory persisted. “We would be shirking our duty as your Betas if we let you go alone.”
Alexei Ivanovich Davidoff straightened his spine and spat. “I will lose no one else to the government. As your Alpha, I am ordering you to stay away.”
“Alpha,” Vasily got on his knees in supplication.
Alexei put up his hand to silence his Beta. “I will hear no more of this. I will lead the demonstration tomorrow.”
Vasily and Grigory hung their heads in defeat.
* * *
Three Years Later
“I don’t think I can make it,” Alexei said as he attempted to walk out the front gate of the gulag to the waiting car.
“Let Grigory and I help to hold you up.” Vasily and Grigory each put an arm under one of his shoulders and half-walked, half-carried him to the car.
They strapped him in the back and Grigory spent the twelve hours it took to get to the dacha trying to hold his Alpha up so he wouldn’t fall where he sat.
When Vasily and Grigory finally got him into the dacha, Vasily’s mouth hung open in shock when he took off his Alpha’s coat. Their six foot six, two-hundred-pound Alpha weighed less than one hundred forty pounds.
“What did they do to you?” Vasily asked, tears pouring down his face.
“I was caged most of the time I spent in the gulag. They tortured, beat, and defiled me daily, all because I’m gay and dared to report Sasha’s and Peter’s deaths, and point to who was responsible.”
“They call it prison now, Alpha.”
Alexei sighed wearily, “In modern Russia, they call it a prison. But I’ve been alive long enough to remember Stalin, Khrushchev, and Brezhnev’s slave labor camps. They can change the name but it’s still the gulag to me.”
“Alpha, you need to make the change. It will erase your scars and after you’ve changed a number of times, your injuries. It will take a while. Your injuries are severe.” Grigory helped Alexei into a roughhewn chair.
“I can’t change. I don’t have the strength.” Alexei put his head in his hands.
“Katya, Boris, something to eat for the Alpha, right away.” Katya ran to the kitchen and brought back some borscht.
“Finish this, Alpha. You have to eat constantly so your stomach can extend again.”
Grigory and Vasily knelt in front of their Alpha. Vasily spoke, “We’ve been pleading with the First for three years. The council finally negotiated your early release on the condition that you emigrate once you recover. We took the liberty of contacting Alpha Daurensbourg, from Saskatchewan and the Central US…”
“I am aware of Etienne Daurensbourg. He is a friend.”
“The council arranged for your emigration and that of your household. Alpha Daurensbourg will receive you in New York and already purchased a seven-floor townhouse and nine two-bedroom apartments for our people in New York City. Grigory, I, and our Enforcers will emigrate with you along with Boris and Katya.”
“But I have no funds, and you have families here. There I will no longer be an Alpha. I won’t be able to care for you.”
“You are our Alpha,” Vasily said with a stubbornness he had not shown to Alexei before. Alexei narrowed his eyes.
Alexei didn’t fight the emigration, only their participation. Vasily continued, “That’s the beauty of this course of action. Alpha La Farge, who was the North America’s Second, is no longer an Alpha. He is an Omega scrubbing Siberian toilets and can’t make the change. They sent him here eighteen months ago to die in disgrace for kidnapping The Alpha Mate. You have blood right to his territory in Colorado. Alpha La Marche has it now. I know he finds the packs fractious because he has no blood tie and they want one of their own. I’ve made inquiries. He’ll give it to you and you can become Second in North America.”
“I don’t want to be Second, Third, or Fourth for that matter. I can’t save the world. I learned that lesson the hard way. I will see my old friend Etienne Daurensbourg and maybe he can help me find a place to go. I have no funds…”
“Excuse me for the interruption, Alpha, but you do,” Vasily said with some satisfaction.
“As your factotum, Boris handled your funds. He put all of your accounts overseas as soon as the government started its campaign against homosexuals, only leaving enough rubles in Russia for operating expenses. As soon as they arrested you, he liquidated the rest of your investments and wired the funds to our London banker who in turn, had them sent them to The North American Alpha for safekeeping. Alpha La Marche reinvested everything. The American Stock Market has done very well. You are worth ten times what you were before and it’s all protected from the Russian government.”
“We bought first-class tickets to New York flying Air France on a nonstop flight to JFK where Alpha Daurensbourg will meet our party. Alpha Daurensbourg would have sent his jet, but the Russian government refused entry. However, Alpha Daurensbourg obtained green cards for the whole household. It’s all arranged for as soon as you are able to travel,” Grigory added.
It took until November for Alexei to regain his health and put on enough weight to have the strength to make the change that would take away the scars from the constant whippings. He still had some internal bruising that would only go away with time. Alexei needed rest, food, and a place to recover. But, even many transformations couldn’t take away the psychological damage the gulag caused, the malaise of the soul. For that, Vasily thought his Alpha needed a miracle. As soon as Alexei could bring out his wolf, Vasily and Grigory had their Alpha and his party on a plane to America. It was right before Yule.
* * *
At Alpha Daurensbourg’s urging, Armand La Marche, the Chief Alpha of North America, gave Alpha Alexei Ivanovich Davidoff the territory of Colorado and a seat as Fifth on the Loup Garou Council of North America.
“You were Second in Russia, Fifth is an insult,” Vasily complained.
“No, it’s not. I’m grateful. I’m tired of tilting at Russian windmills. I need time to gather my strength and clear my mind. I have a place waiting for me at Garou as the officer in charge of Research and Development once I’ve fully regained my health.”
“You’re entitled to…” Grigory sputtered.
“I’m entitled to nothing. I was born in Russia. My mother was a citizen of the United States. She never filed for American citizenship for me when I was born. It was too long ago. I’d have to forge papers and with my accent, they would know I’m Russian which in the current climate, is not a good thing. I have a green card. I can become an American. For once, I’m going to be able to do the job I trained for. I have degrees in three kinds of sciences. Research and Development is where I belong.” Alexei sighed. “I don’t want anything else.”
“If you are upset about the reduction in my status, go work for the new Russian Second.” Alexei’s face turned hard.
Vasily bowed his head in supplication baring his neck. “No, Alpha, we’re yours. Whatever you decide to do, we will go with you. I just wanted you to have options.”
“I’m taking an option. I’ll be Fifth and grateful for the consideration. I’ll leave the politics to Armand. Obviously, he’s better at it than we are. Although there has been some resentment, miraculously gay bashing is now a hate crime in the United States, against federal law, and gay marriage has become legal.”
Wow! Lots of intrigue broiling in those pages.
Now, most of AC’s books are electronic (although she still keeps six bookcases of hardcovers), so she never has to give away another book. AC is a late bloomer, however, she claims to have found her niche writing LGBT romance.