Title: The Alpha’s Prey
Author: Lou Kelly
Publisher: Amazon KDP
Release Date: 03/01/2017
Heat Level: 4 – Lots of Sex
Length: 75,000 words
Genre: Romance, shifter, paranormal romance
Scattered Thoughts and Rogue Words is happy to have Lou Kelly here today talking writing and sharing thoughts on her characters from her recent release, The Alpha’s Prey. Welcome, Lou!
Let’s Talk Characters with Lou Kelly!
Q: Who is your favorite character in The Alpha’s Prey?
A: That’s a hard question to answer! I always fall in love with my main characters as I’m writing. I figure, if I don’t love them, I can’t expect my audience to fall for them. So, maybe this is cheating, but I’m going to name both of the main characters.
I love Devon’s fighting spirit. He never gives up no matter how difficult the obstacle or how much the odds are stacked against him. He’s a character who’s had to fight hard for everything he’s achieved as a skater, starting out cleaning the ice rink to pay for his lessons as he climbed the ranks to international success. Devon’s career has taught him how to get up after a fall, and that’s a skill he desperately needs in this book.
Aaron is a caretaker. As the alpha of his pack, he’s strong but he doesn’t depend on brute force to lead. Rather, he’s incredibly smart and nurturing. In this story Aaron’s patience is challenged again and again as he waits for his mate to be healed in both body and spirit, but every time he rises to the challenge and makes sure that Devon is loved and protected.
Q: If you had to pick from all of your novels, who would you name as your favorite character?
A: Actually, it would be one of my secondary characters from Unguarded. Bart was such a blast to write. I didn’t intend for him to have such a prominent role in the book, but every time he entered the story he ended up stealing the scene. Writing Bart’s lines made me laugh out loud.
Q: What do you think makes a great character?
A: Personally, I love a character who is conflicted in some way. I like stories where the two characters have to battle their preconceptions in order to be together. And I love it when there’s a tinge of darkness to a character’s personality.
In The Alpha’s Prey, I enjoyed writing the scenes where Aaron struggles with his powerlessness. In the story, another alpha is hunting Aaron’s mate, and he wants to protect Devon – has to protect him — but his hands are tied when their opponent goes into hiding. Aaron is a strong character, but when he is forced to deal with a situation that’s too often out of control, this allows him to show different aspects of his personality to the reader. He gets scared, frustrated, and even desperate, but he never loses his strength.
Q: What are some of your favorite characters from other novels?
A: I loved the character of Tover in Astrid Amara’s Song of the Navigator. He could have so easily come across as shallow, but he never did. What happens to him is horrible, and as a reader I really had to wonder whether he’d have the strength to forgive. This is one of my favorite m/m novels.
I also loved Lord Crane and Stephen Day in The Magpie Lord by KJ Charles. I adored both of the main characters (Gray and John) in Jordan Hawk’s SPECTR series. And I always love Keira Andrews’ characters as well. Every book she writes ends up on my re-read list!
If there’s one thing Devon O’Leary hates, it’s wolves. Everyone thinks the wolfman he remembers as his abductor is a figment of his imagination, but Devon knows the truth and he has the scars to prove it. Wolf shifters are real; they have sharp claws, horrible fangs, and show no mercy to their victims. And one of their Alphas has claimed him as its prey.
Can two men overcome impossible odds to claim the love that was meant to be theirs? Or will Devon’s past cause him to reject the mate who would do anything to keep him safe?
Aaron Lowell had a splitting headache. Again.
Actually, this was a migraine. Even the gentle lamplight in his log home made his forehead crease with pain and his fists clench. If he were fully human, the fact that he’d been getting migraines would suck, but he’d take some medication and visit his doctor. Maybe get an MRI. The problem was, Aaron was a wolf shifter, and shifters did not get migraines. Alphas in peak condition did not salivate for Percaset on the day of the full moon.
And yet, jesus, mary, and joseph, Aaron’s head fucking hurt.
The television was blaring in the living room and Aaron forced himself to walk the few feet to shut it off, but a national news promo was on, interrupting the hockey game to inform viewers that there’d been a break in the Devon O’Leary case.
Headache or no headache, there was zero chance he was shutting off the television now.
Devon O’Leary was a figure skater, dubbed America’s prince after his gold medal win at the World Championships. He’d been abducted almost four weeks ago, and ever since, Aaron hadn’t been able to stop thinking about the guy. Any abduction was horrific, but there was something about this one that tore at Aaron’s guts and wouldn’t let go.
Maybe he was obsessed with the story because he’d always nursed a secret crush on Devon. Who wouldn’t? Devon was a breathtakingly beautiful Irish twenty-two year old with chestnut curls, striking blue eyes, a perfect ass, and a smile that brought dimples to both cheeks. He had an amazing build, masculine, and yet completely graceful on the ice. As far as Aaron could tell, the kid was perfect: gorgeous, bashful, and talented.
Around here, in the mountains of Holland, North Dakota, Devon was also a hometown hero because he’d grown up in the area and trained at the local Ice Hut, making his way up the ranks by scrubbing floors to pay for rink time until he won his first national competition. Like everyone else in Holland, Aaron had loved watching Devon skate, even though his pack teased him mercilessly. Not that Aaron cared about a little teasing. He was an Alpha, and he could watch figure skating if he damn well wanted to.
Except, now Devon might be dead.
Please don’t say they found his body.
Aaron couldn’t tell whether his nausea was due to the migraine or the news report. Ever since the abduction his wolf had been howling to get loose and rip someone’s throat out. He guessed most people felt that way, minus the wolf part, of course. Something precious had been stolen from them.
Aaron took a deep breath, trying to steady himself. Honestly, if this was the report where they announced they’d found Devon’s mutilated corpse, Aaron thought his wolf might go crazy.
Finally, the breaking news promo ended and a blonde reporter came on screen, standing in front of a tiny, nondescript hunting shack blocked off with yellow tape. She was obviously deep in the woods, bundled in a hooded fur coat, trying not to shiver in the snow.
The blood in Aaron’s ears pounded so loud he could hardly make out a word the reporter was saying, but he got the gist of the recap as she filled the audience in on Devon’s abduction from the ice rink after one of his training sessions. A photograph of Devon flashed onto the screen, followed by a three second cut of him spinning on ice, a flash of him receiving a gold medal at January’s National Skating Competition, and then a fragment of an interview in which Devon laughed, blushed a gorgeous pink, and shook his reddish brown curls in an unconscious gesture that was so endearing Aaron nearly wept.
Fuck. He was really losing control.
“At long last, there’s a lead regarding the abduction of Devon O’Leary,” the reporter said. “Police have located a remote hunting shack where they believe Devon was being held, maybe even as recently as this morning. The break came after a hunter reported seeing a bound figure being carried to a flatbed truck, and police have been scouring the area since the report came in. What they’ve turned up has been, to say the least, disturbing.
“Although police aren’t commenting on the specifics of what was found inside this shack, they have confirmed that blood and other sources of DNA have been brought to a lab where technicians will determine if they belong to Devon O’Leary. As to whether the bound figure was dead or alive, the witness couldn’t be sure.
“Devon’s only surviving relative, his grandmother, Layla O’Leary, and his coach, Ivan Jacobowitz, have both been in constant contact with authorities and have said that this news gives them hope that Devon will be found. They’re pleading with the public to be on alert for anything that might bring Devon home.”
The reporter looked forlorn, and Aaron wondered if that was due to the news about Devon or the freezing temperatures on the mountain.
“According to the witness,” she continued, “the truck was a rusted, blue Chevrolet without plates and the man carrying the bound figure was described as Caucasian, approximately six foot four, abnormally large and muscular with red hair, a full beard, and a scar across one cheek. Police are asking the public to be on alert for signs of this man or his vehicle.”
Police sketches covered the screen and Aaron drew in a sharp breath at the sight.
No. No, no, no.
The sketch of the abductor had the classic profile of a wolf shifter. Large and muscular were the same two words people used to describe Aaron when they first met him, but there was more: a certain sharp cut of the features that spoke of an Alpha wolf. The shoulders were too broad, the facial features more chiseled, and the eyes … even in a black-and-white sketch, the eyes seemed to glow.
“No.” Aaron repeated the only word his aching brain could conjure. “Please, no.” He ran his fingertips down the length of the television screen as if he could reach inside and pull Devon out. Rescue him from his tormentor.
The sound of his front door slamming shut pulled Aaron’s attention back to reality. His Beta and best friend, Georgia, stepped inside, shaking snow out of her waist length, curly brown hair and removing her pale pink parka. She glanced at Aaron, and then at the television.
“I came as soon as I could,” she said. “Heard the news report on the radio and I had a feeling you’d be melting down.”
Aaron grunted. “Why would you think that?”
Georgia’s eyes strayed to Aaron’s living room wall. Newspaper articles and photographs of Devon were pinned to every wooden beam, even taped to the window pane. Each lead the police had produced thus far – not that any of them had panned out – were pinpointed on a large map tacked between Aaron’s framed college diploma and his UND Hockey poster. A glossy, color cut-out from Skating magazine showed Devon’s smiling face.
“Okay. Maybe I’ve been a bit obsessive,” he admitted, “but the guy’s a local. I know his grandmother, for god’s sake.”
“You know his grandmother because you started visiting her at the assisted living facility after Devon’s abduction,” Georgia reminded him. Gently. For someone whose wolf form was as big as her Alpha’s, Georgia was surprisingly gentle. Even in human form she stood only slightly smaller than Aaron’s broad, six foot four frame, yet she still came across as delicate.
Aaron shook his head. “Yeah. I guess that’s true. I feel like I’ve known her forever.” Over the past month he’d found this sort of thing happening a lot. His head felt muddled, as if every thought had to travel through a thick layer of fog before an idea could emerge. “She’s an amazing woman. She’s already lost a husband, a son, and a daughter-in-law. I can’t imagine how she’s surviving. Maybe I’ll stop by tonight and –”
Georgia cleared her throat, reaching over to shut off the television. “Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten what night this is.”
“What? Oh. Right. Of course not.” But for a moment, Aaron had forgotten. How the hell had he forgotten about the full moon? For shifters, the full moon beat in their veins, literally speeding up the flow of blood so their whole body felt vibrant and alive, ready to split open at any moment. Not a feeling one could easily forget.
“The pack is looking forward to running. You know your mood has been affecting them over the past few weeks. They need this release, Aaron.”
“Yeah. I know.”
He did know. He’d had his first nightmare after the previous full moon waned, quickly followed by his first migraine the next day, and in the weeks since he’d been sluggish, irritable, and nearly incapable of making a decision. Basically, the opposite of everything his pack deserved from their leader.
“Relax,” Georgia said, as if she could read his mind. “No one expects you to be perfect. You’re a damn good Alpha and five years of doing everything right isn’t going to be erased by one bad month. Especially not when there’s clearly something wrong with you.” She paused. “Uh, medically, I mean. The pack is worried, that’s all. We want to see you healthy and it’s scary that Doc doesn’t know how to treat you. Everyone’s hoping that shifting on the full moon will help.”
Aaron couldn’t deny that he’d been hoping for the same thing. Shifters were supposed to heal quickly. Long term illnesses weren’t a part of shifter life until they grew old, but for him, there was even more resting on the full moon shift because the truth was, Doc not only couldn’t cure him, he couldn’t find anything wrong with Aaron in the first place, which meant that whatever was going on was probably in his head.
Even now he could hear Doc’s patient voice. “You took over this pack real young, Aaron. I understand your father wanted to take the position with the council up in Canada, but you’re not mated and you were just out of grad school. Running a pack and a business is a lot of stress for someone your age.”
According to Doc, Aaron had latched onto Devon’s case in an attempt to channel his own latent anxiety into something concrete. Maybe that was true, but Aaron hadn’t been conscious of any out-of-the-ordinary stress before everything fell apart. The pack ran a business building custom log homes, and sales were booming. He’d been able to use his MBA to bring in new customers and nearly double their clientele. Sure, he missed his father, but he loved being Alpha. Leadership was in his blood. Literally.
“Have you eaten anything today?” Georgia asked, walking into his kitchen. She didn’t wait for an answer, rummaging through his refrigerator and stacking mounds of leftover bacon, baked beans, and a pile of carrots onto a paper plate. “You need fuel for tonight.”
She walked back out and set the plate on his coffee table, but Aaron ignored her. He took a red pushpin and stuck it onto the map at the location where the hunting shack had been found. Aaron stared at the pin. The spot was about three hours north in rugged terrain, but it would be possible to get there by nightfall.
“What are you thinking?” Georgia asked, reaching over to massage his shoulders. Aaron was suddenly aware that he’d been wearing the same shirt for three days straight, and he hadn’t shaved, so dark stubble was turning into a full beard. He kept his black hair cut short most of the time, but it had grown out into a ragged, unkempt look, made worse by the circles under his eyes.
“I, uh … we’re going to run here tonight.” He reached out and placed a finger on an area just north of the pushpin where a single dotted line indicated a logging road. Georgia stopped massaging.
“Aaron, I know you want to find this guy, but …”
Aaron whirled on her. “It’s not that I want to find Devon. I need to find him. And he needs to be found. This area isn’t claimed by any pack, so there’s no reason we can’t run here.”
“No reason except that the whole mountain is probably crawling with police.”
“You know humans, they’ll stop searching at nightfall, especially with the temperature dropping.”
Georgia pursed her lips. “Then there’s the three hour drive there and back. Parents with pups will have to get childcare at the last minute, or else we’ll have to leave someone behind to watch the little ones.”
“Ask a few of the elders to stay. Tell them it’s a personal favor for their Alpha.”
“You should also consider the pack’s feelings. They’re already confused about why you’re so obsessed with Devon’s disappearance, and this sudden change in plans won’t help matters.”
“Enough!” The word came out in a stifled roar and ended on a growl. “I’m still the Alpha, and if I say we run here tonight, then that’s where we run. Unless anyone wants to challenge me for my position, in which case they can try their best.”
Georgia made a startled yelp and lowered her eyes to the floor, tilting her head to show her submission. “Of course not, Aaron. No one is challenging your leadership. We love you and support you. I’m just saying it will be difficult to pull everything together at such late notice.”
“I don’t care,” Aaron said. “Do whatever it takes. Anyone who has a valid reason to stay home can run here with a smaller pack or stay with the kids, but I expect everyone else to be ready to leave by four o’clock. We’ll fan out around the base of the mountain and work our way up. This isn’t a request; it’s an order.”
Georgia nodded, but they both knew she wouldn’t have to repeat the last part. Even now the pack could probably sense Aaron’s intensity. They’d feel it in rippling waves of emotion, capped off with the need to obey.
“I better get started then,” she said, reaching for the parka she’d just discarded. She paused, looking back up. “Aaron, is there something you’re not telling me? Something else driving your desire to run in that territory? I mean, besides the obvious.”
Georgia could always tell when he was holding back. That was part of what made her an ideal Beta.
Aaron sighed. “I didn’t like the sketch of the possible abductor that the police released.” He shrugged. “I know it’s just a composite and the witness could be wrong about what he saw, but …”
“The guy looks like a wolf shifter. An Alpha.”
Georgia’s eyebrows climbed up her forehead.
“I realize this probably sounds insane considering I’ve only seen one pencil sketch,” Aaron said, “but if you think about it, the whole scenario points to a shifter. Devon was abducted on the morning after the full moon ended. If he’s been alive this whole time, that means someone has kept him hidden, and now he’s been moved right before the next full moon ascends. I know it’s not much, but I think we have to check things out.”
Georgia set her hand on his arm. “Actually,” she said, “it’s a lot. If there’s even a chance that you’re right, we need to take that shifter down.”
Aaron let out a breath. “Thank you.” There were so many reasons to love Georgia he couldn’t count them all. Her unconditional support was in the top ten.
“I’ll rally the troops,” she said. “Worst thing that happens, we rule out the idea that Devon’s being kept in that area. Best thing? We save that kid’s life, take down a rogue Alpha, and become the heroes of Holland, North Dakota.” She grinned, flashing the wide smile that could rival any Hollywood actress.
Aaron reached over and pulled her close, planting a kiss on her cheek. “Tell me again why we’re not mated?”
She winked, bumping him with her hip. “Could be because Walt would complain. I swear, he gets the Mate-of-the-Year award for coming in second place all the time and not leaving me. If you didn’t prefer men, he’d have dragged me off to another pack ages ago.” She paused, giving Aaron a look. “You know, Walt has this theory that Devon is really your mate and that’s why you’re so drawn to his case. He says your wolf is in pain because it has a psychic link with its soul mate. Might explain the migraines.”
Aaron laughed. “Nice theory, except for the minor detail about the guy being fully human. Trust me, I sniffed around his old apartment and didn’t find even a trace of wolf scent.”
“I don’t know,” Georgia said. “I’ve heard of other wolves being mated to humans. It’s pretty rare, but it happens.”
“Not to Alphas,” Aaron said, shaking his head. “Doc says we’re genetically designed to be mated with female wolves so we can continue the pack. He’s sworn up and down that when the time comes and I meet my mate I’ll feel attracted to her. I told him that if I was going to be attracted to any woman it would be you.”
Georgia laughed. “You put too much stock in Doc’s opinions. He’s a sweet old man, Aaron, but he’s been the only wolf doctor in this tiny, backwater town since before we were born. I don’t even know if he got a medical degree or if he just learned the art from his grandfather.”
“So what are you saying?”
“Nothing. Just that Doc’s been wrong before and crazier things have happened.” She pulled on her coat and headed to the door. “I’ll see you later,” she said. “If Devon’s out there, we’ll find him.”
Long after the door shut, Aaron stood in the same exact spot, staring at the wall. He tried to hold the idea of Devon being his mate in his mind, but the thought brought his migraine back full-force. If he were to believe that was true, it would mean that someone had taken away the man meant to be his soul mate and held that man captive in a hunting shack for a month, while he did god only knew what to him.
Aaron’s head spun. No. Better not to go there. The idea was crazy to begin with, and there was nothing to be gained from entertaining the thought. He needed to sleep for an hour or two before the pack headed out. Give in to his body’s demands before he exerted himself.
Slowly, Aaron crawled up the stairs and flung his tired form onto his bed. He closed his eyes, knowing he’d dream about dimples and chestnut curls, arms reaching out to him, desperate and in pain, pleading for his help.
Begging to be found.
Meet the Author
Lou Kelly loves a great romance. Having honed her skills as an author through a decade of writing and publishing, she discovered m/m fiction and fell in love. What does she like best? The slow burn.
“No insta-love for me. I adore a well-developed full-length novel with characters who are believable and sympathetic. My favorite relationships are the kind where suppressed desire sizzles with sexual tension struggling for release. Give me a strong Alpha male who has to fight for his mate, or enemies who are shocked when hate turns into love, or a mysterious stranger who doesn’t want his secrets revealed … I crave books that keep me up past my bedtime.”
When she isn’t writing, Lou Kelly loves to travel. Sadly, most of her traveling these days happens between the pages of books, but top on her wish list is a trip to Greece. Followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, and Iceland. *sigh* Someday she hopes to explore them all. Until then, you can find her reading! – Lou Kelly is a member of RWA (Romance Writers of America), and a proud member of RRW (Rainbow Romance Writers).