First Chapter – Savage Transformation

Savage Transformation comes out in eight days time. EIGHT DAYS!! Wow. So, I thought I’d share with you all the very first chapter. Yes, that’s right. The whole FIRST CHAPTER.

Leave a comment on your thoughts about it and go in to the draw for an ARC copy drawn in SEVEN DAYS (that’s a whole 24 hours before Savage Transformation is available to the rest of the world *grin*)

Savage Transformation

Author’s Note

The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was a beautiful carnivorous marsupial living in Australia over five millennia ago. It was similar in appearance to a large dog and earned its name thanks to its sandy yellow-brown fur and distinct fifteen to twenty black stripes across its back from shoulder to tail.

While the thylacine was almost nonexistent on the mainland of the country, by the time of European colonisation, it did live in large numbers on the small island state of Tasmania. However, the Tasmanian tiger was deemed a threat to sheep and chicken farmers—an unlikely scenario—and a large bounty was placed on its head. As a sad consequence, the thylacine was hunted to extinction, and a beautiful creature was lost to the world forever.

The last thylacine died in a Tasmanian zoo in September, 1936, alone and pacing its concrete and metal cage, no doubt longing for its freedom.

There have been numerous unconfirmed sightings of Tasmanian tigers in Tasmania to this day. However, most believe these sightings are fake or attempts to gain personal notoriety. The thylacine is still considered extinct by all official agencies and government bodies.

Of course, official agencies and government bodies don’t know everything…

Prologue

New York, New York.

Four months ago.

The woman stared at Marshall Rourke, her expression both guarded and menacing. Don’t try it, her clear amber eyes said.Don’t even think about it. What “it” was, Marshall didn’t know, but he’d bet his left testicle it’d be fun finding out. Fun and dangerous. Probably painful too. A grin pulled at the corner of his mouth. He didn’t mind danger. And when it came down to it, a little bit of pain wasn’t too bad either. A certain type of pain, that was.

He studied the still image on his laptop, his grin stretching wider. This one would bite. Of that, he had little doubt. In both the metaphorical and literal sense of the word. Frozen in millions of vivid coloured pixels on his computer’s screen, the woman stared back at him, those striking light brown eyes of hers sharp and piercing despite the fuzziness of the photograph and the distance from which it was taken.

She stood in a busy city street, surrounded by pedestrians dressed in an array of business suits, jeans and short summer dresses. She could be standing in any big city in the world, but the short note accompanying the image told him she was in Sydney, Australia.

Marshall raised his eyebrows. That was not where he expected her to be.

He ran a slow inspection over the distance-blurred image, noting the confident straightness of her shoulders, the slim but athletic frame, the confident way she held the Glock 9mm in her hand.

She wouldn’t be easy to capture. He didn’t need to read the short dossier attached to know that.

He dragged his cursor over the image, zooming in on her face. Something about her eyes intrigued him. They were intelligent, almost arrogant, but somehow haunted as well. Like she’d witnessed events more than one lone female should, and had made her judgment.

He thought of the Glock, held so loosely in her long, slender fingers, of the menacing expression on her face. Of the coiled tension in her slim frame. What type of judgment had she cast to cause her to become what she let the world see?

Flicking his gaze to the printout beside his laptop, he scanned the dossier he’d already committed to memory. Family. Foster family she no longer had contact with. Relationships. None of any significance. There was one close girlfriend living in the small island state of Tasmania and one ex-lover living on the opposite side of Australia in Perth, but that was it. There was no one she was close to in Sydney. No real weakness to exploit.

Marshall rubbed his jaw, a distant part of his mind noting the stubble there. He’d have to shave before the hunt began, otherwise he’d look like an animal by the time it was done.

The absurdity of the thought struck him and he chuckled, returning his attention to his laptop’s screen and the woman on it.

How long would it take for Einar to hunt her down?

Marshall narrowed his eyes. It would be fast. The bastard never wasted time when hunting prey. The question was, would Marshall be able to find her faster?

He let his gaze move over her, noting the subtle feminine curves beneath the utilitarian suit, the glossy softness of her chestnut-brown hair, the fullness of her bottom lip. What would that lip feel like against his own? Between his teeth?

Something tightened in the pit of his gut and he scowled. He had to stay focused on the task, no matter how appealing her petite little package. Scowl growing deeper, he closed his laptop and stood, picking up his own Glock as he crossed his private suite to stare out the large window overlooking Central Park West. He knew what she looked like and he knew where she was. That was all he needed. Now he just had to get to her.

First.

Chapter One

Launceston, Tasmania. The bottom of Australia.

Sydney Detective, Jackie Huddart stood motionless in the swarming, laughing, shouting, jostling airport-terminal crowd and cursed her best friend. She wished she had her gun. Not that she wanted to shoot someone, although the creep with the wandering hands and bad body odor walking behind her as she’d disembarked from the plane would have been her first choice. No, she wanted her gun because it kept her temper under control. And right at this very moment, her temper was well and truly on its way to snapping. Why the hell had she let Delanie organise her flight home? Delanie couldn’t organise a booze-up in a brewery.

Maybe your bad temper has nothing to do with Del? Maybe what you really wanted to do was stay in Sydney and track down who killed Detective Vischka?

A sudden image of the murdered detective flashed through Jackie’s head, followed just as quickly by an image of Vischka’s hulking bear of a partner, Detective Peter Thomas.

She released a sigh and hitched her bag higher up her shoulder. Detective Peter Thomas would find Vischka’s killer, of that Jackie had no doubt. Not just because that’s what the homicide detective did—his arrest rate was phenomenal—but because he and Vischka had been more than just partners on the force. When you killed a cop’s lover, you could start counting down your days.

Besides, if she started poking her nose around in a homicide case, she’d have to start dodging questions she wasn’t willing to answer.

Fixing her sights on the closest car rental kiosk, she began shoving her five-foot-three, one-hundred-and-fourteen-pound, wringing-wet frame through the horde of arriving and departing passengers and their grinning, hugging associates. She’d hire a compact and get out of Dodge, or in this case, Launceston, immediately. She didn’t have anything against the city, but when she’d agreed to come home—home. Such a dangerous concept—she hadn’t expected to be stood-up by her best friend.

Casting a quick look around the busy airport terminal, she shook her head. God alone knew where Delanie was. Probably buying another pair of shoes. Or getting her bikini line waxed. The life of a test consumer/shopper was not, if anything, boring.

Finally reaching the rental desk, Jackie crossed her arms on the counter and blew at her fringe. “I’ll take whatever you have that’s cheap and will get me to Pyengana without breaking down.”

The clerk raised her overly plucked eyebrows. “Pyengana? Why would anyone want to go to Pyengana?”

Jackie ground her teeth. Even in Tasmania the small coastal town of three hundred souls was derided. It was known in the state for its historic cheese factory. It was known on the mainland for one thing only: the last possible sighting of the very extinct thylacine. The Tasmanian tiger, an animal of ancient beauty and mystery, now just a symbol of Australia’s barbaric past.

As if the clerk read Jackie’s mind, she pursed her lips in a condescending smirk. “Going hunting, are we?”

Jackie bit back a low growl. Damn. It was a good thing she didn’t have her gun. “No,” she stated calmly. “Going home actually. To a funeral.”

Bright red heat flooded the clerk’s face. She stared at Jackie, mouth opening and closing like a drowning fish for a few moments, before she dropped her head and focused her entire attention on her computer terminal. “I have a Mazda convertible that I can do for the same fee as a compact. GPS unit and premium insurance free of charge.” She darted Jackie a quick, furtive look. “Special offer today.”

Jackie smiled, letting the woman see her teeth. “That would be lovely, thank you.”

It would take an hour and forty minutes to drive to Pyengana from here. One hour and forty minutes through some of the most lush and beautiful terrain on the planet. As tempting as it was however, she couldn’t risk putting the top down. That level of concentrated sensory exposure would call to the very spirit within her. The one she’d spent the last twenty years trying to suppress. She couldn’t risk that. It was too dangerous. Too—

“Heya, Huddart!” A loud but somehow husky voice called behind her. “What the bloody hell are you doing renting a car?”

Jackie chuckled. Rolling her eyes, she turned away from the clerk to watch a tall, willowy redhead weave her way through the crowd still amassed in the airport terminal. Well, weave probably wasn’t the correct word. The crowd seemed to melt away from the redhead’s path, the men gazing at her as she passed by, the women scanning her five-foot-nine frame for any sign of cellulite the snug denim short shorts and an even snugger white T-shirt she wore may reveal. Of which, there was none. Delanie McKenzie was every inch perfect.

She was also every inch the perfect pain in the arse, and Jackie’s best friend since they were little girls with scraped knees and snotty noses.

“What the bloody hell am I doing renting a car?” Jackie cocked an eyebrow at her friend and folded her arms across her chest. “Maybe it has something to do with the fact my ride left me in the lurch.”

Delanie laughed, the sound full and throaty and completely contagious. “Not in the lurch. I’m here, aren’t I?”

Jackie hitched her bag farther up her shoulder and gave her friend a pointed look before going up onto tip-toe to kiss her cheek. “Two hours late.”

Delanie kissed her cheek back before straightening. “And you expected differently?”

With a snort, Jackie shook her head. “I should have known better.”

Delanie grinned, her wide mouth stretching wider to reveal white, perfectly even teeth. “Yes, you should have. But I’m here now. Ready to hit the road?”

“Only if I’m driving.”

Delanie laughed. “Of course you’re driving. I’ve just had my nails done and I so very much miss your blatant disregard of the posted speed limit.”

Jackie laughed. “I do not speed.”

Delanie chortled. “No. Of course not. That’s why you came first in your driving skills component at the police academy, correct?” She nodded at the clerk behind Jackie. “Sorry. We won’t be needing you.” Giving Jackie a quick grin, she threaded her bag over her shoulder. “I’ll go get the car. Grab us a latte each from the cafe, will you? I need a caffeine hit before we get on the road.”

She turned on her heel and made her way back into the fray, once again parting the crowd like Moses parting the Red Sea. Jackie watched her go for a while, realizing how much she’d missed her friend since moving to Sydney. Delanie was a perfect example of ADD, and so extroverted she made a puppy Fox Terrier look calm, but she was honest and loyal and knew all of Jackie’s secrets. All of them.

Which made Delanie McKenzie the only living human in Australia to know exactly what Jackie really was.

Turning back to the clerk, Jackie gave her a cool smile. “Thank you for the ‘special offer’.”

The woman gave her a wobbly smile in return, her cheeks still flushed with embarrassed consternation. “I’m very so—”

“That’s quite okay,” Jackie cut her short.

With a sympathetic smile, she turned away from the counter and headed for the airport terminal’s cafe. One hour and forty minutes of winding roads and Delanie McKenzie. She better order a double expresso instead. Otherwise she’d have no hope of keeping up.

The waiting line extended beyond the store’s entry and Jackie bit back a curse. She hated standing in line. Especially for coffee in cardboard.

Suppressing an irritated growl, she scanned the crowd around her. Eighty percent of it was tourists—bright-eyed and eager at the beginning of their holidays. Shoulders still straight, suitcases and backpacks packed neatly, lacking the tell-tale bumps and bulges of luggage packed at the end of a trip, parents still patient with young children, teenagers still civil to their elders. In amongst them all, like blemishes of reality, stood the odd local, regarding the holidaymakers with wry amusement. Locals whose attire was suited to the cool evening awaiting them outside.

Jackie chuckled softly to herself. The rest of the country tended to forget Tasmania was not hot, hotter, hottest all year round, let alone international visitors. The summer days may be warm, but the nights still required a light jacket.

Unless you were Delanie McKenzie, of course. To this day, Jackie had never seen her best friend in anything more concealing than a long-sleeve T-shirt and jeans.

Thinking of Del turned Jackie’s thoughts back to the coffee line and her position in it. Damn it. She was no closer. Delanie would be sitting in the waiting bay, engine gunning before she even made it to the counter at this rate.

She huffed into her fringe, turning her gaze back to the crowd. She was on extended leave from work, called home to attend her foster father’s funeral, but that didn’t mean her cop’s instincts went on leave.

Nor her.

A tall man with shortly cropped blonde hair near check-in caught her attention, killing the unwanted thought. He was looking at her.

The second Jackie’s eyes made contact with his he looked away.

Jackie frowned, studying his profile. Are you sure you’re not imagining it?

Her frowned deepened. Maybe he was just a typical bloke? See a woman alone in the crowd, check her out. After all, she wasn’t that uneasy on the eye. In a short, look-at-me-sideways-and-I’ll-kick-your-arse kind of way.

She sighed and turned back to the line. It had been too long since she’d had any kind of intimacy with anyone apart from her hand, and to make matters worse, she suspected she was coming on heat.

“What would you like?”

Jackie started, staring at the barely pubescent teenager looking at her with wary expectation from behind the counter. Heat flooded her cheeks. “Latte. Large. Two sugars. Double espresso. Short.”

She spat the order out like bullets, for some reason on edge. Twisting at the waist, she searched the crowd behind her for the blonde man, but there was no sign of him.

What did you expect?

Scowling, she turned back to the counter. Back in her home state for two hours and she was already jumping at shadows.

This is why you moved to Sydney, you know. Less history to rattle your cage. Less skeletons in the proverbial closet.

True, but since Declan O’Connell had killed Nathan Epoc, Sydney had more weres to take into account.

Yes, but how many werewolves can detect a thylacine? How many werewolves even know what a thylacine is?

Apart from Declan himself, none that Jackie knew of. Well, Yolanda Vischka, but the murdered detective wasn’t talking to anyone anymore.

Picking up the coffees from the end counter, Jackie made her way to the terminal’s exit, weaving through the crowd with a scowl.

It was a mistake coming back. Even with Delanie’s infectious craziness, she should have stayed away. The moment she saw her dead foster father in the ground she was on the plane and headed back to Sydney. It was safer that way.

Forty minutes later, her espresso long gone and Delanie’s latte now ice cold, Jackie pulled her mobile phone from her hip pocket—again—and flipped it open.

She was worried.

More than worried.

Del hadn’t come back from getting the car and her mobile was going immediately to her message bank. Still.

Growling silently, Jackie snapped her phone shut.

Her cop instincts were itching.

Just your cop instincts, Jackie? What about your—

She cut the thought dead. She had suppressed those instincts for many, many years. She didn’t need the instincts of an animal to tell her now something wasn’t right.

“Jesus, Delanie,” she muttered, throwing the cold latte into the rubbish bin. “What the hell is going on?”

She wriggled her fingers, a nervous tick she’d thought she’d gained control of when she was a teenager. The urge to shift, to transform into her true form had never been stronger. Delanie’s scent would be much easier to follow in her other form. She’d be able to track her trail without any problems, hopefully finding her friend well and safe and chatting up some hunky bloke in complete ignorance of how much time had passed since she’d told Jackie to get them both a coffee.

That’s not going to happen, Jackie, and you know it.

A ripple shivered up her spine and her blood grew thin. The transformation called her animal closer to the surface than it’d been since she was twenty-one.

Find her. Track her. Hunt her.

Jackie sucked in a sharp breath, grinding her teeth and digging her nails into her palms. She couldn’t change. She wouldn’t. She wasn’t that person anymore. She’d denied that part of her existence over a decade ago and she wouldn’t let it return.

But what about Delanie? What if she’s in trouble?

“I’m a bloody cop, for fuck’s sake,” Jackie stormed back into the terminal, “I don’t need to change into a bloody Tasmanian tiger to find a missing person.”

Besides, the last time she’d shifted she’d almost been captured on film, and she couldn’t risk that again, even for Delanie. The Tasmanian tiger was considered extinct to the world, and she needed to keep that misconception as it was. Stripping off her clothes, shifting in an airport toilet cubicle and sprinting through the crowd on all fours was not the way to stay out of the public eye.

Wishing more than ever she had her gun, Jackie approached the information desk, giving the man behind it a worried, harried look. She’d spoken to him three times in the last sixty minutes and she could tell he was beginning to tire of her. “She still hasn’t turned up,” she said, hoping he saw the worry in her eyes. “Can you make the announcement again, please?”

With a disdainful sigh, the man—David Lee, according to the name badge pinned to his shirt—snatched a mic from the desk before him and punched a button. “If Delanie McKenzie is in the terminal—” his voice boomed around the cavernous space, each word amplifying his irritation, “—will she please come to the information desk. Your friend is waiting for you.”

He removed his finger from the mic with a pointed flick and fixed Jackie with a patronizing look.

“Drop the attitude, David,” she snarled, before she could stop herself. “Or I’ll reach over this counter and give you something to have an attitude about.”

He blinked, a sudden flash of startled apprehension destroying the condescending expression on his face. “S-sorry, ma’am.”

Jackie suppressed a sharp sigh. She felt her canines lengthen in her gums, felt her blood run thin and hot again. Fuck. This was why she never came home anymore. Being too close to her natural environment lessened her control of the animal in her blood. Even the air in Tasmania was dangerous to her.

“Damnit, Del.” She forced her hands into fists to stop her fingers from wiggling and searched the faces in the crowd for her best friend’s. “Where are you?”

Twenty minutes later, and Delanie still hadn’t appeared. The information-desk attendant gave Jackie a nervous smile. “I suppose you want me to page her again?”

Jackie scowled at him. “No. But thank you for your concern.” Hitching her bag higher onto her shoulder, she pushed her way through the thinning crowd, heading for the exit. She didn’t know what was going on, but she knew she needed to try and find Delanie’s scent. If nothing else, to see if her best friend made it to her car.

The automatic doors parted as she approached them, the cool crisp air of a typical Tasmania summer assaulting her before she crossed the threshold. Her inner animal growled and flexed, hungry for release. Jackie shoved the powerful urge aside, focusing instead on the air. She pulled in a deep breath as she stepped outside the terminal onto the sidewalk, hunting for Delanie’s scent. Her senses weren’t as strong while in human form, but they were still hyper enough to hopefully find a trace of her friend.

She filled her lungs with air, tasting the breath as it streamed past her olfactory nerves. Melaleuca, eucalypt, gasoline, tar, spent cigarette butts, rotting refuse from a nearby rubbish bin, bad BO still lingering on her clothes from her annoying companion in the terminal, bird shit baking on the row of rental cars to her left and—

“Sorry!” Delanie’s cry came from behind, full with apologetic mirth. “Sorry!”

Jackie spun, glaring at her best friend running toward her across the car park. “What have you been doing? I was just about to—”

What? Shift?

“I’ve locked the keys in the car.” Delanie pulled an embarrassed face, coming to a halt before Jackie. “And I tried to find someone to help me get them out.” She grinned. Sheepishly. “Obviously, I didn’t.”

Jackie raised her eyebrows, doing everything she could to stay calm. The soft tingle in her belly told her just how close she’d come to transforming. She hadn’t been that close for many, many years.

That’s it. You need to get out of here ASAP.

“How could you lock your keys in your car? Don’t tell me you still drive Bernie?”

Delanie’s sheepish grin turned to one of pride. “Okay, I won’t. Just close your eyes when you sit in him and pretend you’re in a Ferrari.”

Jackie rolled her eyes. “Okay, a Ferrari it is. Although I can’t imagine you’d lock your keys in a Ferrari.”

Delanie grinned wider. “Probably not, but where’s the romance in a Ferrari? At least Bernie has history.”

With a laugh, Jackie hitched her bag farther up her shoulder. “A history is right. In and out of the mechanics more time than on the road. I’m convinced the only reason you keep him is so you have a legitimate excuse for seeing that mechanic you rave on about.”

“Mmm, Shaun Whitmore. Now there’s a six-pack I could lap up.”

“That’s it.” Jackie shook her head. “I’m going back to the rental desk. Maybe I can get that convertible after all.”

“No, no, no.” Delanie draped her arm around Jackie’s shoulder. “We’re good. I’ve called roadside service. They’ll be here in ten minutes or so.”

“Called? With what? I’ve been ringing your phone for the last forty minutes.”

A pink tinge painted Delanie’s cheeks. “Ummm, my phone’s flat.”

Jackie pressed her hand to her face. “Damn, I’d forgotten what it’s like.”

“What what’s like?”

“Being your best friend.”

Delanie grinned. “It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

A warm glow flooded through Jackie and she smiled. It was wonderful. Frustrating, irritating and down-right exasperating, but wonderful as well. Delanie reminded her to laugh. Delanie reminded her there was goodness in the world. Delanie reminded her she had someone real to turn to. That she wasn’t alone in her secret.

“Anyways, enough of this idle chit-chat.” Her best friend tugged her into a rough hug. “Let’s get our sexy, desirable arses back to Bernie so we can ogle the roadside assistance’s butt.”

Jackie laughed and shook her head. And then stopped. The tall, blonde man from the terminal stood beside a low, black Audi about ten yards to her left. Looking at her.

She blinked, and in the space it took for her eyelids to open, he dropped into the sports car and slammed the door.

Jackie frowned, staring at the vehicle as its engine kicked over.

“Jackie?”

The windows were dark. Too dark for her to make out the man behind the wheel, but she could feel his gaze on her. Her nipples pinched tight.

“Jack? What’s up?”

The Audi sat motionless in the car space, engine idling like a sleeping beast. Jackie studied it, a tingle growing in the pit of her belly. Current model S5. Tasmanian registration plates RRF 042. Small sticker on the top right corner of the windshield: Luxury Rentals.

“Earth to Jackie. Come in Jackie.”

With a soft growl of its engine, the car moved, rolling forward before turning right and smoothly purring away from her.

“What’s up?”

She tuned out Delanie’s voice. Her throat felt tight. Twice in the space of one hour?

Now you’re being paranoid, Jackie. It’s an airport. People come and go all the time.

“Jack?”

True. But do they move as quick as this guy?

Do their eyes seem to bury into you, even from a distance? And are they as sexy?

The last thought turned Jackie’s frown into a scowl and she clenched her fists. Damn it. If she’d known she was coming on heat she never would have come back, regardless of her foster father’s funeral. Marsupials didn’t have mating cycles but, thanks to the combination of her dual existence, whenever she drew close to her human menstrual cycle, the urge to mate grew to a fever pitch. She’d suppressed that urge for the last eighteen years; the big-city air and taste of Sydney acted like an antidote to her primal needs. Being in her home environment however, with its sweet unpolluted air, its rich, fertile soil…

She stared at the taillights of the distant Audi and her sex constricted.

Bad timing. Damn it, bad timing.

“Jacqueline Huddart, if you don’t tell me what’s going on this very second, I’m calling animal control.”

The worry in Delanie’s sardonic statement snapped Jackie’s stare from the Audi. She turned to her friend, forcing down the unexpected surge of animal agitation. “I’m sorry, Del.” She smiled, the action feeling brittle. “I’m a bit off at the moment.”

Delanie fixed her with an intent look. “I get that. I didn’t expect coming back to be easy.”

Jackie’s wry chuckle caught her by surprise. “Easy is not the word I’d go for right now, no.”

With another closer inspection, Delanie nodded her head. “Well then, let’s get this farce of a funeral over and done with then, shall we. I want to make your brief time home enjoyable. Maybe I can find a ball and we can play fetch.”

Jackie gave her a sideways glare, her lips twitching into a grin. “Maybe I can bite you on the butt and ruin that perfect backside of yours.”

Delanie laughed. “Ooh, now that would be interesting in a kinky, paranormal male-fantasy kinda way.” She began walking, smiling broadly even as she squeezed Jackie closer to her side in a tight embrace, as if she worried Jackie was going to run off.

A deep, ancient longing stirred in Jackie’s gut at the thought of running away.

Run off, run wild, run free, run, run, run.

Jackie slid her arm around her best friend’s waist, shutting the enticing, dangerous notion down. Damn, she wished she had her gun.

The hunter studied the two women walking through the car park—one tall and animated, one petite and radiating controlled savagery. Jacqueline Huddart. A creature of forgotten myth. A creature of primordial magnificence and ancient spirituality.

A shape-shifting thylacine. Part-human, part-Tasmanian tiger.

And he’d found her.

A small thrill shot through him, clenching a cold fist in his chest. To discover a living Tasmanian tiger in itself was something considered impossible. Hunted to extinction in the nineteen thirties, the animal now only existed in the dreams of scientists deluded enough to believe they could resurrect the species through DNA cloning.

To discover the existence of a shape-shifting thylacine…

The thrill in his chest spread to the pit of his belly, his groin.

The moment he’d learnt of her existence, he’d flown to Australia. He’d hunted more deadly game before, he’d tracked more unpredictable, but Jacqueline Huddart had proved the most difficult to find.

With no name for his quarry, he’d only had a location to start with, a last known sighting: Pyengana, a tiny town with barely more than one hundred and twenty people living there.

Moving about the small town unnoticed was not hard. Trying to decipher whom of the one-twenty was his target proved a bit trickier. Two months spent tracking each one, following their every move, studying their behaviour, their garbage, their interaction with the other townsfolk finally revealed what he’d begun to suspect on his second day of observation. The shifter was not there.

Another month and he had located the whereabouts of every person once living in Pyengana. A month after that, he narrowed his target down to two: a female in Far North Queensland and Jacqueline Huddart.

All it had taken was one precise act of violence—the brutal murder of a werewolf bitch in Sydney—to draw her out. He’d found her.

And then she left Sydney.

Just as he was about to begin the true hunt.

Which brought him back here. Tasmania. An island state at the bottom of a country older than time.

Shifting his weight slightly, he watched her move across the bitumen, the deepening shadows of dusk folding around her.

She moved with animalistic grace. Fluid. Smooth.

He felt himself smile. It was a thing of perverse beauty to observe. He doubted any man would not find her walk hypnotic. A steady, purposeful stride. Hips swaying, spine straight, shoulders square. An ancient energy radiated from her. He could feel it even from this distance, some fifty-five yards away. Like the trapped fires of a dormant volcano simmered through her veins.

She would not succumb easily.

Nor would she be easy prey. That was evident in the way she surveyed everything around her. To a casual observer, she would appear calm and composed and confident. To a trained eye however, an eye specializing in the behaviour of such creatures, Jacqueline Huddart was in a constant state of heightened anticipation. Alert. Ready.

Just the way Daeved Einar wanted his quarry to be.

He smiled, sliding his stare over the shifter’s petite form.

“So begins the hunt.”

Savage Transformation is available from Samhain Publishing 28th September. Check it out here

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