Clifford and Claire, Scene 8
Hi, folks. For the next few weeks I’m going to provide you some more sneak peeks from my upcoming novel – more scenes from the back story of Clifford and Claire. But first, I have got to tell you about a huge, multi-author book and swag giveaway that’s going on thorough October 31st.
Over 50 authors are participating in this, including yours truly. There are some great books and other really neat stuff that you can win. I’ve never seen anything of this magnitude before, and I’m delighted to be a part of it. Just click on one of the links below to enter.
Fall Into Fantasy via Ash Krafton
Fall Into Fantasy via Red Tash
Red Wolf Rising won’t be available to the general public until Spring of 2014. But, since folks have asked for it, and since I’ve already shared half the story on my blog, I’m going to continue to provide excerpts of Clifford and Claire scenes as they are written.
If you haven’t been keeping up, click on the archive history to the right for previous postings. Here’s scene #8…
Clifford, Katherine, and little Jack spent Thanksgiving weekend visiting Katherine’s parents in Atlanta. Sunday morning Katherine told Clifford she would not return to Charlotte with him. She and Jack were going to extend the visit for an indefinite period of time. Gramma and Granpa could help with the baby and she could have some “down time.”
The announcement came straight out of the blue, and it made Clifford uneasy. For one thing, it sounded very much like the prelude to a separation. For another, Katherine hadn’t been to a 12-Step meeting in months, she’d already re-connected with some old friends during the visit, and a part of him suspected the “down time” included partying with them.
And he would miss Jack. The little bugger was the bright spot in his dreary inscape these days. It was only November, but Clifford’s thoughts were as gray and cold as February.
Still, he didn’t object. And his unease began to dissipate once he was on the road. He played the CD’s he liked, as loud as he wanted, and by the time he got home he’d compiled a long list of activities he could enjoy while having the apartment all to himself.
He sat around in his underwear watching sports or DVD’s and ate pizza or Chinese takeout, leaving home only for work and meetings. After a few days he stepped on the scales and realized he better add some exercise to his routine. He set his alarm for an early morning jog.
And so he found himself out in the greenway in the chilly pre-dawn of a Sunday morning. He had chosen a route with plenty of hills, and he was really pushing himself up one, bent forward, eyes glued to the path in front of his feet, when he rounded a curve and came face to face with the snow white wolf-dog again.
He skidded to a halt. A shot of adrenaline made his already laboring heart slam against his ribcage like a jackhammer. “Oh,” he gasped, “hey, girl. It’s you again.”
He had no second thoughts about talking to a dog. It had always seemed natural. But he was used to the dog cocking its head or pricking its ears and the response coming from a characterized voice in his own head. This one, however, nodded. The gesture was almost human.
And very disconcerting.
The dog, or wolf – it really looked more like a wolf – sat on its haunches in the middle of the trail. It was big for a dog. Hell, it was big for a wolf. And, with its uphill position, the animal and the man were at eye level.
There was no threat in its body language, but there was also no room for Clifford to pass by on the narrow trail. This was definitely a confrontation.
“Whatcha been up to, girl?” he asked. And suddenly conversing with an animal did seem awkward. But the animal shrugged, another very human gesture, and that’s when Clifford noticed its shoulders were very un-canine – excuse me, un-lupine. Its front legs were jointed less like a dog or wolf and more like a bear… or a human.
Clifford blinked. He shook his head. His mind was trying to make a connection with this animal and something else he’d seen recently… and he didn’t want it to. “Uh,” he said, “are you going to let me by?” He was conscious of a tremble creeping into his voice.
The animal shook its head.
“Christ,” he murmured. His mind began to go places he really didn’t want it to go. He tensed.
But the animal thumped its tail on the ground a few times and emitted a chuffing sound, almost like a chuckle. It stood and padded towards him, looking up at him with clear, gray, intelligent eyes that seemed somehow familiar. It lowered its head and nuzzled under his right hand.
He laughed, albeit a bit nervously. “Oh, you just need some love, huh?” He tentatively stroked the huge head. The animal leaned into him. Her back was level with his waist. He scratched behind her ears, using both hands. An appreciative whine rumbled from her chest.
He was getting into it now. He began scratching in long strokes down her back. “You’re a pretty girl, aren’t you? Where did you come from?” She shivered and one of her rear legs twitched. “Oh. Found a spot, didn’t I?” He experimented, trying to see if he could make her leg spasm again.
He did, and for a moment they both stood there, him scratching and her arching her back and fanning her leg at the air until she suddenly pushed against him, knocking him off balance. He stumbled backwards, barely managed to keep from falling. She shook herself and snorted.
“Sorry,” he murmured, feeling he may have taken indecent liberties, crossed some boundary he shouldn’t have.
She turned around, facing back up the hill. She looked over her shoulder, and in another very human gesture, beckoned him with her head. She trotted a few yards up the trail, stopped and turned to look at him again.
Clifford stood frozen, unsure what to do. “You want me to follow you?” The animal – he was pretty sure now it was some kind of wolf - raised its eyebrows and cocked its head sideways. He could almost imagine her saying, “Duh.” When he still didn’t react, she nodded her head.
He swallowed. “Okaaaay,” he breathed. But he wasn’t sure he wanted to follow her, and anyway he couldn’t seem to make his legs move one way or the other.
The wolf trotted back towards him. He was paralyzed. He felt his bowels might loosen at any moment. The wolf opened its jaws, and he had a terrifying glimpse of huge canines before she gently took his wrist in her mouth and tugged him forward.
He took a step, then another. “Okay, okay,” he said, “I’m coming.” She let go of his wrist and began walking ahead of him, slowly, glancing back every few seconds to see if he was still following.
Okay. So, he was moving now. And he’d managed not to shit himself. The wolf obviously meant him no harm, but… that’s not what he was afraid of. He was afraid of the truth about what was happening. The fantastic, unbelievable truth that was prodding and nagging at the edge of his consciousness. His denial would not keep it at bay forever. What would he do when he came face to face with it, and reality turned upside down?
They reached the top of the hill, and the wolf took a side trail to the left. Clifford considered continuing along the jogging trail. Maybe she would ignore him and let him go. But when he reached the turnoff, the wolf was looking back over her shoulder, watching for him.
He followed her.
That’s it for now. Next week, we’ll find out where she’s taking him. Until then… Happy Reading!
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