This is the first of several excerpts I’ll be posting over the next few weeks for Wolf in the Headlights (Alice the Wolf 4), as has become my custom when I release new books. This time, I’m offering at peek a part of chapter 6, following immediately after a big fight. (Wouldn’t want to give away all the best bits, right?)
The gauntlet is breaking down as most of our opponents divide to run left or right up the halls to deal with the larger packs of dogs led by the Prestons. At this point, I have trouble finding anyone to hit because one member or the other from my pack is mauling them before I get within range.
I get to the corner where the counselor’s office is, and I’m thinking this is way, way too easy. Aisha and Regina have a huge army at their disposal, so why are there so few skilled fighters involved in this attack? The only conclusion I can come to is that this is a diversion.
Maybe Aisha will humor me with an answer.
I open the door and walk inside. Aisha has Monica tied to a chair with duct tape, and she has a knife to Monica’s throat. Monica’s mouth is covered in more tape, a move I almost understand given Monica’s typical bluntness.
I dip my head in a brief nod. “Aisha.”
She returns my gesture. “Alice. I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but you’re not in the best of moods, are you?”
“I’ll be in a better mood when you put down that knife.”
“I will soon, but it’s time we had a chat.”
“We don’t have much to discuss. I told Regina we didn’t have to fight, and she chose to attack anyway.”
“Indeed she did. Regina thinks we can use you, just not in the way she’d originally hoped.”
“You’re supposed to make an example out of me. I get that.”
“You’d be wrong, and I’m pleased that our plot worked so well.”
I think hard on what she means by this, but I’ve got nothing. “You’re not making an example out of me?”
“No, I’m polishing your underdog image.”
I shake my head. “You lost me.”
“You made a valid point to Regina about our image problems. We’re escaped convicts, and no matter how we present ourselves to the public, we’re criminals. But not you. You’re a real all-American girl, a former gymnast and a football player. You were raped by bullies, and when you fought back against their efforts to repeat their crimes, the courts punished you. You’ve got a documented battle with a serious illness, and now you’re stopping a gang of terrorists from killing your classmates. That’s a hell of a history to lay out for the press, and you probably noticed the news vans you passed on your way in.”
“You’re using me as a mascot?”
Aisha grins. “You’re as bright as Regina said you were. Yes, we’re making you the face for the revolution, even if you don’t want the job. By this time next year, you’re going to be on the covers of magazines. The humans are going to eat you with a spoon, and we’re going to let it happen before we expose you, your pack, and every mystical person in this podunk town.
“See, if we come out of the closet, it’s all the same shit.” Aisha raises her free hand and waves it, making her voice high in pitch, but not in volume. “Aaaah, look out. They’re evil monsters. Kill them with fire.” Aisha lowers her hand. “But when you and the weredogs come out? That’s going to muddy the issue. People will find out your folks lied to you, and they were killing werewolves and vampires even though they knew you were a monster. The public is going to learn what a tragic life you’ve had, and it’s going to break their hearts.”
“When more monsters come out, their pasts aren’t as relevant,” I guess. “What will matter is how they behave in the future.”
“Bravo.” Aisha makes a soft clap against her knuckles, waving the knife closer to Monica’s throat. “You’re going to make a great detective and a great face for the revolution.”
Another clue clicks into place. “That’s why you won’t let me go into hiding.”
“Right again. If you try to keep out of the public eye, we have plenty of minions to convince you to come out of hiding, and you’ve got so many friends, you can’t watch them all at the same time. For that matter, you can’t watch them or protect them if you’re hiding to avoid exposure.”
This is a brilliant twist, one I never saw coming. I win, they lose, and yet they still win because I look good for their cause.
I wave back at the door. “All of those people in the gauntlet are pawns.”
“Someone’s got to go to jail for this, but they won’t be serving long. We didn’t have to kill anyone. There’s just some minor assault charges to sweat off.”
“But not you,” I say. “If you’re captured, they’re going to fry you in Texas.”
Aisha laughs. “Who said I was going back to prison?”
“Uh, me? Maybe?”
“I’m sure you’d love to fight me, but you’re about to have to apply pressure to a wound to keep your friend alive.”
My eyes widen, and I shout “Don’t—!”
Aisha slides the blade along the side of Monica’s throat, and while I flicker over the table to cover the wound, she blurs out the door, laughing the whole way.
I suck in a breath and scream, “Help me!”
Wolf in the Headlights is available for just $4.99 at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and my blog bookstore. If you review books on your blog, you can request a free review copy by emailing me at zoe_whitten (at) yahoo (dot) com.