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It’s not easy being a girl. It’s even harder when you’re the only girl in a family of werewolves. But it’s next to impossible when your very existence spells out the doom of your race. . . Meet Jessica McClain — she just became part of the pack.
Table of Contents
A Preview of Blood Rights
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I drew in a ragged breath and tried hard to surface from one hell of a nightmare. "Jesus," I moaned. Sweat slid down my face. My head was fuzzy. Was I dreaming? If I was, this dream hurt like a bitch.
Wait, dreams aren't supposed to hurt.
Without warning my body seized again. Pain scorched through my veins like a bad sunburn, igniting every cell in its path. I clenched my teeth, trying hard to block the rush.
Then, as quickly as it struck, the pain disappeared.
The sudden loss of sensation jolted my brain awake and my eyes snapped open in the dark. This wasn't a damn dream. I took a quick internal inventory of all my body parts. Everything tingled, but thankfully my limbs could move freely again. The weak green halo of my digital clock read 2:07 a.m. I'd only been asleep for a few hours. I rolled onto my side and swiped my sticky hair off my face. When my fingers came in contact with my skin, I gasped and snapped them away like a child who'd just touched a hot stove.
Holy shit, I'm on fire.
That couldn't be right.
Don't panic, Jess. Think logically.
I pressed the back of my hand against my forehead to get a better read on how badly I was burning up. Hot coals would've felt cooler than my skin.
I must be really sick.
Sickness was a rare event in my life, but it did happen. I wasn't prone to illness, but I wasn't immune to it either. My twin brother never got sick, but if the virus was strong enough I was susceptible.
I sat up, allowing my mind to linger for a brief moment on a very different explanation of my symptoms. That scenario would be impossible. Get a grip. You're a twenty-six-year-old female. It's never going to happen. It's probably just the flu. There's no need to—
Without so much as a breath of warning, another spasm of pain hit clear and bright. My body jerked backward as the force of it plowed through me, sending my head slamming into the bedframe, snapping the wooden slats like matchsticks. My back bowed and my arms lashed out, knocking my bedside table and everything on it to the ground. The explosion of my lamp as it struck the floor was lost beneath my bona fide girl scream. "Shiiiit!"
Another tremor hit, erupting its vile ash into my psyche like a volcano. But this time instead of being lost in the pale haze of sleep, I was wide awake. I had to fight this.
I wasn't sick.
I was changing.
Jesus Christ! You've spent your whole life thinking about this very moment and you try to convince yourself you have the flu? What's the matter with you? If you want to live, you have to get to the dose before it's too late!
The pain buried me, my arms and legs locked beside me. I was unable to move as the continuous force of spasms hit me one after another. The memory of my father's voice rang clearly in my mind. I'd been foolish and too stubborn for my own good and now I was paying the price. "Jessica, don't argue with me. This is a necessary precaution. You must keep this by you at all times." The new leather case, containing a primed syringe of an exclusively engineered cocktail of drugs, would be entrusted to me for safekeeping. The contents of which were supposed to render me unconscious if need be. "You may never need it, but as you well know, this is one of the stipulations of your living alone."
I'm so sorry, Dad.
This wasn't supposed to happen. My genetic markers weren't coded for this. This was an impossibility. In a world of impossibilities.
I'd been so stupid.
My body continued to twist in on itself, my muscles moving and shifting in tandem. I was locked in a dance I had no chance of freeing myself from. The pain rushed up, finally reaching a crushing crescendo. As it hit its last note, my mind shattered apart under its impact.
Everything went blissfully black.
Too soon, pinpoints of light danced behind my eyelids. I eased them open. The pain was gone. Only a low throbbing current remained. It took me a moment to realize I was on all fours on the floor beside my bed, my knees and palms bloodied from the shards of my broken lamp. My small bedside table was scattered in pieces around me. It looked like a small hurricane had ripped apart my bedroom. I had no time to waste.
The dose is your only chance now. Go!
The bathroom door was five feet from me. I propelled myself forward, tugging myself on shaky arms, dragging my body behind me. Come on, we can do this. It's right there. I'd only made it a few thin paces when the pain struck again, hard and fast. I collapsed on my side, the muscles under my skin roiling in earnest. Jesuschrist! The pain was straight out of a fairy tale, wicked and unrelenting.
I moaned, convulsing as the agony washed over me, crying out in my head, searching for the only possible thing that could help me now. My brother was my only chance. Tyler, it's happening! Ty, Ty… please! Tyler, can you hear me? Tyyy…
Another cloud of darkness tugged at the edges of my consciousness and I welcomed it. Anything to make all this horror disappear. Right before it claimed me, at that thin line between real and unreal, something very faint brushed against my senses. A tingle of recognition prickled me. But that wasn't right. That wasn't my brother's voice.
Nothing but empty air filled my mind. I chastised myself. You're just hoping for a miracle now. Females weren't meant to change. I'd heard that line my entire life. How could they change when they weren't supposed to exist? I was a mistake, I'd always been a mistake, and there was nothing my father could do to help me now.
Pain rushed up, exploding my mind. Its fury breaking me apart once again.
Jessica, Jessica, can you hear me? We're on our way. Stay with us. Just a few more minutes! Jessica… Hang in there, honey. Jess!
I can't, Dad. I just can't.
Fear shot through me like a cold spear. I lifted my nose and scented the air. Coolness ran along my back, forcing my hair to rise, prickling my skin. I shivered. My labored breaths echoed too loudly in my sensitive ears. I peered into the darkness, inhaling deeply again.
A rumble of sounds bubbled up from beneath me and I inched back into the corner and whined. The thrumming from my chest surrounded me, enveloping me in my own fear.
I leapt forward. My claws slid out in front of me, sending me tumbling as I scrabbled for purchase on the smooth surface. I picked myself up, plunging down a dark tunnel into a bigger space. All around me things shattered and exploded, scaring me. I vaulted onto something big, my claws slicing through it easily. I sailed off, landing inches from the sliver of light.
My ears pricked. I lowered my nose to the ground, inhaling as the sounds hit me. Images shifted in my brain. Humans, fear, noise… harm. A low mewing sound came from the back of my throat. A loud noise rattled above my head. I jumped back, swiveling away, searching.
Then I saw it.
I leapt toward the moonlight, striking the barrier hard. It gave way instantly, shattering. I extended myself, power coursed through my body. The ground rushed up quickly, my front paws crashing onto something solid, my jaws snapping together fiercely with the force of the impact. The thing beneath me collapsed with a loud, grating noise. Without hesitation I hit the ground.
I surged across hard surfaces, finding a narrow stretch of woods. I followed it until the few trees yielded to more land. I ran and ran. I ran until the smells no longer confused me, until the noises stopped their assault on my sensitive ears.
I veered toward a deep thicket of trees. Once inside their safe enclave, I dove into the undergrowth. The scent pleased me as I wiggled beneath the low branches, concealing myself completely. Once I was settled, I stilled, perking my ears. I opened my mouth, drawing the damp air over my tongue, sampling it, my nostrils flared. The scents of the area came quickly, my brain categorizing them efficiently. The strong acidic stench of fresh leavings hung in the air.
I cocked my head and listened. The faint sounds of rustling and grunting were almost undetectable. My ears twitched with interest. My stomach gave a long, low growl.
I sampled the air again, testing it for the confusing smells, the smells I didn't like. I laid my head down and whimpered, the hunger gnawing at my insides, cramping me.
Eat, eat, eat.
I couldn't ignore it, the hunger consumed me, making me hurt. I crept slowly from my shelter beneath the trees to the clearing where the tall grass began. I lifted my head above the gently waving stalks and inhaled. They were near. I trotted through the darkness, soundless and strong. I slid into their enclosure, under the rough wooden obstacle with ease. I edged farther into the darkness of the big den, my paws brushing against the old, stale grass, disturbing nothing more.
The wind shifted across my back. They scented me for the first time. Bleating their outrage, they stamped their hooves, angry at the intrusion. I slipped under another weak barrier, my body lithe and agile as I edged along the splintered wood. I spotted my prey.
I lunged, my jaws shifting, my canines finding its neck, sinking in deeply. Sweet blood flowed into my mouth. My hunger blazed like an insatiable fire, and my eyes rolled back in my head in ecstasy. The animal tipped over, dying instantly as it landed in the dirty hay. I set upon it, tearing fiercely at its flesh, grabbing long hunks of meat and swallowing them whole.
My head jerked up at the noise, my eyes flickering with recognition.
"I'll teach you to come in here and mess around in my barn, you mangy piece of shit!"
Sound exploded and pain registered as I flew backward, crashing into the side of the enclosure. I tried to get up, but my claws slipped and skidded in the slippery mess. Blood. I readjusted, gaining traction, and launched myself in the air. The pungent smell of fear hit me, making my insides quiver with need.
A deep growl erupted from inside my throat, my fangs lashing. My paws hit their target, bringing us both down with a crash.
I tore into flesh, blood pooled on my tongue.
I backed away.
"Bob, you all right out there?"
I loped forward, limping along in the shadows. I spotted a small opening, jumped, and landed with a painful hiss. My back leg buckled beneath me, but I had to keep moving.
I ran, scooting under the barrier. A scream of alarm rent the air behind me. I ran and ran until I saw only darkness.
I crawled beneath a thick canopy of leaves, my body curling in on itself. I licked my wound. There was too much damage. I closed my eyes. Instantly images flashed through my mind one by one.
Man, boy… woman.
I focused on her.
I needed her.
I called her back to me.
She came willingly.
Jessica! Jessica! Honey, can you hear me? Answer me!
Jess, it's Ty. You have to listen to Dad and wake the hell up!
My brain felt foggy, like a thick layer of moss coated it from the inside.
Jessica, you answer me right now! Jessica. Jessica!
I squinted into the sunlight filtering through a canopy of branches a few feet above my head. I was human again. I had no idea how that had happened, but I was relieved. I tried to move, but pain snapped me back to reality the instant my leg twitched.
With the pain came everything else.
The change, the escape, the poor farmer. I shuddered as the memories hit me like a flickering film reel, a snippet of my life one sordid frame at a time. I'd been there, I'd seen it, but I hadn't been in control for any of it—except at the very end. I hoped like hell the farmer was still alive. Saying no had taken so much effort, I couldn't remember anything at all after that. I had no idea where I was.
From everything I knew about wolves, not being in control was an extremely bad sign. If I couldn't subdue my wolf—couldn't master my Dominion over the new beast inside me—I wouldn't be allowed to live.
Holy shit, I'm a wolf.
I lifted my head and glanced down the length of my very exposed, very naked body. I focused on my injury and watched as my skin slowly knit back together. Incredible. I'd seen it happen before on others, but until now I'd never been in the super healing category myself. Young male wolves gained their abilities after their first shift. My body must still be adjusting, because my hip was still one big mash of ugly muscle. Dried blood stained my entire right side, and the heart of the gunshot wound resembled a plate of raw hamburger.
Thankfully there was no bone showing. If there'd been bone, there would've been bile. Now that I was awake and moving, the pain had increased.
I closed my eyes and laid my head back on the ground. My encounter last night better not have been a normal night out for a new werewolf. If it was, I was so screwed.
My head shot up so fast it slammed into a pointy twig. Ow. "Dad?" So it hadn't been my imagination after all. I knew the Alpha could communicate with his wolves internally, but hearing his voice was new to me. I concentrated on listening. Nothing. I projected a tentative thought outward like I used to do with my brother.
Oh my God, Jessica! Are you all right? Answer me!
Yes! I can hear you! I'm fine, er… at least I think I am. I'm in pain, and I can't really move very well, but I'm alive. My hip looks like it went through a meat grinder, but it's mending itself slowly.
Stay where you are. We'll be right there. I lost your scent for a time, but we're back on your trail now.
Okay. I'm under some thick brush, but I have no idea where. I can't get out because of my leg.
Snort. You're not healed yet?
Who else would it be?
Hearing my brother's voice in my head released a flood of emotion. I hadn't realized how much I'd missed it until right this second. It's safe to say I wasn't expecting you back in my brain. We haven't been able to do this since we were kids, but it's good to hear you now.
Tyler's thoughts shifted then, becoming heavier, like a low, thick whisper tugging along the folds of my mind. Jess, I heard you calling me last night. You know, when it first happened. It sounded awful, like you were dying or something. I'm so sorry I didn't make it there in time. I tried. I was too late.
It's okay, Tyler. We haven't been able to communicate like this in so long, I really wasn't expecting it to work. It was a last-ditch effort on my part to take my mind off the brutal, scary, painful transition process. Don't worry about it. There wasn't anything you could've done anyway. It happened mind-bogglingly fast. Almost too fast to process. My heart caught for a second remembering it.
I heard, or maybe felt, a stumble and a grunted oath. You'll get used to it, Tyler said. The change gets easier after you do it a few more times. Hold on, I think we're almost to you. We lost your scent back at the barn. Jesus, you ripped that place apart. There was blood everywhere.
An ugly replay started in my mind before I could shut it down. I hope the farmer survived. I shifted my body slightly and winced as a bolt of pain shot up my spine. My injuries would've killed a regular human. I was clearly going to survive, but it still hurt like hell.
My dad's anxiety settled in sharp tones in my mind. We're close, Jessica. By the time we picked up your scent on the other side of the barn, we had to wait for the human police and ambulance to leave. It shouldn't be long now. Stay right where you are and don't move. Your scent grows stronger every moment.
Yeah, you smell like a girl. It's weird.
Maybe that's because I am one. Or have you forgotten because you haven't seen me in so long?
Nope, I haven't forgotten, but you don't smell like a regular wolf, Tyler said. Wolves smell, I don't know, kind of rustic and earthy. You smell too female, almost like perfume. It sort of makes me gag. I could feel him give a small cough in the center of my mind, which was totally bizarre.
Then I should be easy for you to find.
We'll be right there, my dad assured me. Don't worry. We've got a car not too far from here waiting to take you back to the Compound.
All this effort to communicate was taking its toll, and my head began to ache in earnest. The pain in my hip flared and a whooshing noise started in my ears. I'm feeling a little woozy all of a sudden…
I woke to white walls and the smell of disinfectant, latex, and coffee. The room resembled a typical hospital room, clean, bright, and sterile, except this one catered exclusively to werewolves. It was underground because wolves weren't known for their calm cool natures, and dirt was damn hard to claw your way out of if you went crazy.
No one else shared the space with me, which made things easier. Newborn wolves meant chaos, and less chaos was preferable, since last night I'd managed to achieve the impossible. I'd become the only living female full-blooded wolf on the entire planet. My new identity was going to rock the supernatural status quo, and the sooner I could prepare for the fallout—which was inevitable—the better. Hauling my ass out of this hospital bed was a good place to start. "Hellooo," I called. "Is anybody there?"
While I waited for a response, I flexed my leg and tested for pain. A small twinge lingered high on my thigh, but otherwise it felt normal. I couldn't actually see the wound, since the top of my leg was wrapped with enough gauze to stuff a throw pillow. Recalling the mincemeat it'd been, I was more than happy to go without a visual. I had no idea if I would scar from the ordeal or not. I had a lot to learn about my new body.
A conversation started on the floor above me. My father's low baritone stood out. I cocked my head, half expecting to hear a bionic beep as I homed in on the conversation. It was amazing how clear it was, like they were in the same room with me. I tested my vision on a tiny container across the room. I could read the fine print on the label, no problem.
Footfalls hit the steps and my father, Callum McClain, the Pack Alpha of the U.S. Northern Territories, stepped into view. "Well, it's about damn time." I flashed him a big grin. It'd been a while since I'd seen him and I'd missed him. Since I'd left the Compound seven years ago, we'd only seen each other a handful of times. We'd been extremely cautious about our meetings, because being spotted together would've set off alarms in the supernatural community. Any gossip could have compromised my alias, abruptly ending the independent life I'd worked so hard to create for myself.
"Jessica, you scared the hell out of me." My father strode to my bedside. With a full head of dark hair and no wrinkles in sight, he didn't appear a day over thirty-five.
"I scared the hell out of myself." I chuckled. "Shifting into a wolf hadn't been on the evening's agenda. Plus I kind of thought I was dying, so that put a serious damper on the whole thing. My limbs felt like they were being sawed apart by a dull blade."
"The first time is always rough," my father said. "Especially if I'm not there to guide the transition. It's much better if you don't fight the process and stay calm. The tranq would've eliminated the pain. Why didn't you use it?" My father slid a chair over and pulled it next to the bed and sat. "That was our agreed-upon failsafe if you ever started to shift. You were to inject yourself, knock yourself out, and we would find you. No damage to you in the process. You could've died jumping out of your apartment and it's lucky the gunshot didn't sever your spinal cord. I put my trust into you, into our agreement. I expected you to follow it to the letter."
"I'm sorry." I plucked at the bedsheets like an errant child. "I tried to reach the dose, but I didn't make it. I have no one to blame but myself. I transferred the case from my bedside stand to the bathroom cabinet a few years ago. I thought it was close enough, but honestly, I never thought I'd need it. It's been over ten years since I hit puberty and we'd always been told I wasn't genetically coded to shift." I paused for a second. "I'm sorry. I thought you were being overprotective as usual."
"Dear Jessica!" Dr. Jace entered the room, his familiar white hair fanning around his face like a fragile halo, his expression full of open amusement and wonder. "You gave us quite a fright! You're a miracle, young lady, truly a miracle." He shuffled to my bedside, grabbed on to my hand, and patted it affectionately. "Who would've thought it possible? A true female among us. Amazing! Truly amazing!"
"Doc Jace." I tilted my cheek toward him so he could give it a quick peck. "It's great to see you again. It's been too long. You're looking well." This man was the closest thing to a grandfather I'd ever known. He was an Essential human in our Pack, like his father and grandfather before him—meaning he knew our secrets, worked for us, but was not supernatural himself. Essentials were a necessity in every supernatural Sect, since the human race had no idea we existed. They were doctors, teachers, lawyers; individuals recruited to play a special role within the Sect. Doc Jace was a brilliant doctor, an extreme asset to our Pack. "I'm so glad you're here"—I flashed him a grin—"because you're just the man to answer a burning question."
"Of course," he said. "I will always do my best to answer your questions, Jessica."
"How did I survive? I thought I wasn't coded for wolf, that it would be impossible for me to make a full transition, and if my body chemistry did change late after puberty I'd likely die from the ordeal. But I'm alive."
Doc absently stroked his short beard. "Males carry their wolf markers on their second Y chromosome, very uncommon indeed, but they are there, coded very clearly. You have never had any such indicators and no second chromosome. My best guess is your body must carry the gene, the one that marks you as a wolf, elsewhere, perhaps in a noncoded region. But as you can guess, I will be doing exhaustive research on that very topic." He patted my hand. "Exciting work it is." Puzzling over our genes was his life's work. "Having you make a successful transformation as a female is revolutionary. We are blazing a new trail with this research. It will be marvelous indeed."
I already knew it was revolutionary, because females didn't exist in our race. My birth had sparked a frenzy of discontent, which was enhanced to a breaking point by a certain unsubstantiated but extremely well-circulated myth proclaiming I was pure evil, a menace placed on earth for the sole purpose of bringing down the race of wolves. Once the Pack found out about my new status as a full-blooded wolf, there was going to be a huge uproar, and everything I'd built for myself would slide straight down the drain. Without going into all that with the Doctor, I asked instead, "What time is it? How long have I been out?"
"It's seven o'clock in the morning," Doc answered. "You've been asleep for nearly eighteen hours, which is not uncommon for a wolf recuperating from a traumatic injury. I'm guessing you're ready for some coffee and some breakfast? You must be famished. Shifting utilizes an incredible amount of energy, and newborn wolves are more hungry by nature."
"Yes, coffee and food sound heavenly." My stomach growled on cue. "I'm actually starving." Dr. Jace left and I turned back to my father. "I've been asleep for eighteen hours? Are you telling me it's Monday morning already?"
"Yes, it's Monday." My father leaned forward in his chair. "But don't worry about missing work. I've already been in contact with Nicolas. He's already on his way. You've actually been asleep with a little extra help from the Doc. He wanted to be perfectly sure you would heal completely with no complications, and I wholeheartedly agreed with him. Injuries like yours take time to mend, especially for a newborn. I'm just thankful you came back to us in one piece. That was a hell of a ride you took us on."
I was relieved to hear my business partner and best friend, Nick Michaels, was on his way. It would be good to have another ally here, since I had no idea how this was going to play out. "The whole transition was insane, but I don't really remember how it went down." I corrected myself. "No, that's not exactly what I mean. I do have a clear memory of the pain, but for some reason I can't remember the actual turning very well."
My father sat back. "It's not uncommon to disengage with your wolf during your first turning. Your change was an unexpected, traumatic event. As we discussed, fighting the process can make it excruciating. Your wolf likely took over while your human side remained in a shocklike state. It happens. It's not ideal, but it happens."
I was mildly surprised by his reaction, but ultimately happy he wasn't going to hatch an immediate plan to chain me to a bed until I could master more control. "It didn't feel like I was in shock, but I guess I could've been. In the end she toggled something between us and handed me control again. I'd been a passenger up until that point, but when I finally slid into the driver's seat, I took one sniff of my injuries and passed out." My first tough werewolf moment and I'd passed out like a champ.
My father regarded me quietly for a moment. He ran a single hand through his thick dark hair. It was a gesture of stress, and he didn't do it often. "Well." He cleared his throat. "I'm not sure what happened there, but it can take a wolf many years to master Dominion over their wolf. If your wolf willingly handed control back to you, it seems you're not going to have a problem with mastery." He leaned in closer, his eyes alert. "It's a sign your human side is strong, and that's a damn good thing."
A wolf was required to prove Dominion over his inner wolf before being allowed to reenter human society. By instinct your wolf wanted complete control—demanded it. The human side had to be powerful enough to override the wolf's urges at all times. No exceptions.
I bit my bottom lip.
That wasn't exactly how it'd happened. I knew I'd stopped her from killing the farmer, but I had no idea how to do it again if I had to. But I was content to drop it for now, and asked instead, "How did you know I changed? How did you find me?" I grew up on the Compound, so naturally I knew a lot about wolves, but I'd been kept in the dark about a lot of things too.
- "A wild, wolfy ride that will have you howling for more!"—Kristen Painter, author of Blood Rights
- "Amanda Carlson's Full Blooded is full of all good things: danger, excitement, an original, LIKEABLE heroine and some great mythological mayhem. Bring on book 2!"—New York Times and USA Today bestseller Karen Chance
- "Amanda Carlson's debut novel is a fast paced tale with a cliffhanger ending that left me panting for more. Full Blooded left me on the edge of my seat from cover to cover."—New York Times bestselling author Faith Hunter
- "A fresh approach to the werewolf tale."—Library Journal on Full Blooded
- On Sale
- Sep 11, 2012
- Page Count
- 352 pages