Before the Fall

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Sequel Sneak Peek

Hey readers! Thank you so much for finishing Before the Fall. I’d love to hear your thoughts about the book, things you liked or disliked, moments that resonated with you, times where things may have moved too slow or too fast--anything.

The primary reason I’m adding this chapter is because I realized after a few comments that I should make it clear that this is not the end for Gray and the Atwoods. I am currently in the process of writing the sequel, which I think will be titled, “To the Moon”. I’m a slow writer and I like to have a whole project finished before I post it online so I can have the freedom to make changes, so it will be a while before To the Moon sees the light of day, but I’m slowly and steadily making progress. Comments and feedback on Before the Fall are the best motivation to keep writing.

Since it’s so lame to make the last chapter of a book be just an announcement, I thought I’d give you a peek of the first chapter. No promises on if things will stay the same between now and when the whole thing is finished, but here’s a taste of what Gray and the Atwoods are up to now!


Chapter 1

“Tell me again why we’re doing this now when I could be watching reruns of The Office?”

“Babe,” Jason says soothingly. “The Office will still be here when we kick everyone out, don’t worry.”

Sara sighs, but accepts a kiss on her cheek. “Alright, but you losers better start talking before I go into labor.”

Slate, next to Gray, just shakes his head in tired amusement but Asher rolls his eyes enough to move his actual head in tandem with his eyes. The three of them “happened” to stop by Sara’s all together at a time they knew both halves of the married couple would be home. An overdue conversation is about to occur, mostly against Gray’s will. She understands why it has to happen, but she doesn’t like it. She’s gone her whole life hiding what she can do like a dirty secret, and now all these people are about to know the intimate details of how it happens. Slate and Asher already know--Slate because he’d caught her weeks ago, and Asher by virtue of his connection with Slate--so Gray supposes ruefully that it’s only fair that Sara and Jason know too.

“Dude, Sara,” Asher says. “You can’t use the labor card when you’re not even halfway through the pregnancy.”

Sara gasps with affront. “Excuse me, but I am eighteen weeks along--have you carried a human in your stomach for four and a half months?”

Slate clears his throat and points out, “Technically, neither have you.”

Sara folds her arms across her chest and narrows her eyes suspiciously. “On principle, I resent that you have disagreed with me but I’ll allow it temporarily until you’ve explained yourself.”

Slate shrugs and says easily, “Babies don’t go in stomachs. Babies go in uteruses.”

The whole exchange is warm and familiar to Gray now. When she first arrived at the Atwood’s property line just in time to save the life of the fifth (of six) Atwood child, Gray had been in her wolf form for nearly a year and she was hardly thinking straight. All told, Gray had actually been more wolf than woman for the better part of three years, but it was really that last one when she’d begun to give up on being a woman at all. Any other wolf who tried to exist without a pack would be snarling mad within a year, but Gray was and is...different.

Many werewolves have gone the way of man and dismissed any old creation stories involving the Moon Mother, but Gray actually drew strength from it more in those three years than ever before. Her creator was her constant companion, a steady, immovable force. Gray believes the Moon has given her--blessed or cursed, Gray doesn’t much care, it just is--a unique gift, which Gray credits as her saving grace. Gray has the unique ability to heal people. Humans and half-humans alike.

The pure nature of the inner draw to use her Moon Gift on other people, altruism in its truest form, was what drove nearly her every last movement for those three years. She depended wholly on the Moon to guide her where she could help the most. So Gray believes it’s the Moon that saved her from becoming a rogue wolf, a werewolf gone bad.

That said, Gray’s mind had also become very simple. The most she worried about was her next meal and a place to sleep when she wasn’t healing. By the time she’d been forced to shift back to her human form, it had been a rather rough transition. Physically, it was a nightmare, mentally and emotionally...she is still a work in progress, but worlds better than when she arrived more than three months ago.

Back in the present, Asher snickers at Slate’s dry humor and Sara takes a turn executing a massive eye roll. “Yeah, yeah, whatever. Now cut to the chase. What do you have to say for yourselves?”

Sara and Jason’s eyes flicker between the three of their visitors. In order from left to right, they are Asher, Gray, and Slate. The middle one shifts uncomfortably and glances at Slate, in turn receiving a nod of encouragement. “Well,” she says, “there’s something I--we--haven’t told you about my healing.”

Comically, Jason’s eyebrows go down and Sara’s fly up. Putting a hand on her now noticeable baby bump, Sara asks, “What do you mean? It’s going great on my end.”

“It’s something all three of you have been keeping secret?” Jason asks with no small amount of confusion.

“Sort of,” Asher winces when neither Gray nor Slate have anything to rebut with. “It’s more of an omission sort of secret--and to be fair, I’ve only been in on it for about a month.”

Gray groans and elbows Asher for his glaringly obvious self preservation at the expense of his metaphorical brothers-in-arms. It used to be that a little thrill rolled through Gray when she felt brave enough to act this familiarly with anyone, but now it’s just...part of life. It’s a nice revelation to have.

“Ow,” Asher accuses.

Sara notices the exchange with growing concern. “Okay, what is it?”

Now Gray is regretting not forming more of a game plan--how is she supposed to do this? “Well, my healing isn’t...as straightforward as it might seem,” she eventually tries slowly.

“In what way?” Jason asks without missing a beat.

“I…” Gray trails off when Slate offers her a hand. She looks at him in confusion.

“Would it be easier to show them?” He offers quietly in the small space between them.

Gray realizes then that he’s not offering her a hand, rather an arm. She deflates in relief and nods gratefully. Slate is Gray’s True Mate, another phenomenon that many don’t believe in anymore. Gray is inclined to believe that those people only doubt because they’ve never seen it. One cannot witness a True Mate pair come together and deny the dusting of other that brought them together. Slate and Gray have a ways to go before they can call each other mates of even the simplest form, but there are still little moments like this when Gray realizes the two of them were brought together for a reason. Without the True Mate bond recognizing their compatibility, Gray probably would have dismissed Slate as someone too difficult to pursue and he likely would have dismissed her as another person to keep at arm’s length, but now that they have this link, they find more and more of these little moments where they just match.

Slate flicks out a claw and presses it to his forearm with enough pressure to draw blood, making Sara and Jason both gasp. “Whoa, Slate, what are you--”

In an automatic, conditioned response to someone in pain, Gray immediately lays a hand next to his wound and takes it away. An exact twin reappears on her own arm and lasts only moments before fading away, à la advanced werewolf healing.

In perhaps a maternal gesture, Gray reaches across Slate to wad up a few tissues from the side table and dab away the remaining blood on both of their arms. Though he’s not the type of man to appreciate coddling, Slate sweetly says nothing and allows it. All the while, she’s completely oblivious to the shocked faces of the two eldest in the room.

“Gray, oh my goodness…” Sara breathes. Gray has been healing Sara consistently for over three months and nearly every day for a month of that--this has to be hitting her hard. Her eyes fill with tears a moment later. “Is this what I’ve been doing to you for months?”

“Sara no,” Gray rushes to say, even though she’s exactly right. “I don’t blame you or anyone else I’ve healed. I’ve been doing this since I was a girl. It’s fine.”

Jason shakes his head and splutters incredulously, “It’s not fine.” The conflict is painted across his face. “I...Gray, I don’t want you to hurt yourself, but Sara…” he looks at his wife. “What are we supposed to do, here?”

“You keep doing what you can for yourself, and let Gray give you her gift when you need it,” Slate intervenes with the kind of surety that can’t be argued with. “That’s what you do.”

Not even a second later, Sara slaps a palm to her forehead. She looks at Slate with sad realization. “Oh my gosh, that’s why you keep feeding me ginger and tea and dabbing oils and--all those times I complained about all of it…”

“Sara,” Asher says gently. “There’s no use in blaming yourself for things you did before you had all the information. Any of us would have done the same thing.”

“Hey, does that have anything to do with why you’re always here with Gray now?” Jason non sequiturs. This conversation has taken so many turns it’s practically a pretzel.

Gray hadn’t actually been sure they would make that connection, certainly didn’t anticipate it coming out so fast. Slate turns to Gray with raised eyebrows, as if to ask for her permission to share. She raises an eyebrow back that she hopes communicates how dumb she thinks that is, that he feels the need to ask permission of her.

It gets a twitch of the lips from him, which is no small victory these days. He turns back to Sara and Jason. “Yes. We’ve discovered we can share the pain between the two of us.”

Sara looks somewhat mollified by this, and that brings up a whole host of feelings for Gray. She’d once had a conversation with Asher that really brought to light a lot of things about Slate and the way other people treat him. He’s stoic and subtle to the extreme and seems to absorb every blow like it’s nothing. Obviously people know intellectually that’s not true and that he does have actual feelings and does feel actual pain, but when you can’t see something, it often ceases to exist in one’s mind. People don’t see the pain or stress that Slate feels on a daily basis, so they feel overly comfortable depending and counting on him much more than the average person.

So when Sara gets this look on her face like she’s reassured that Slate feels the pain alongside Gray, it...kind of rankles. Surely Sara is mostly comforted by the fact that Gray doesn’t take the brunt of every ailment she heals, but Gray can’t help but feel like she would have reacted differently if it had been Asher who sat alongside her and felt half the pain that Sara or anyone else did. But because it’s not Asher and it is Slate, the new knowledge is somehow disproportionately comforting instead of disturbing to Sara.

After a moment, Sara pouts and mutters. “I thought the two of you were just spending more time together because I was matchmaking you.”

Jason wisely ignores this and straightens. “Is that something we can all learn to do? Gray if there’s any way to help--”

“J,” says Asher, “I’ve tried it many times with no luck.” He nods his head at Slate. “Slate explains it with the radio metaphor. Gray and I have the gifts, he just has the ability to tune into the right frequency to receive it. Even I can’t tune into Gray. We’re on separate channels.”

Sara leans deeply back into her husband with a contemplative look on her face. Jason’s not done though. “Do you think you could share some aspect of anyone’s gift?” He wonders at Slate.

Slate shrugs. “I don’t know anyone else with a moon gift. We didn’t realize until Gray that what Asher can do is a moon gift at all.”

“So, when I get headaches,” Sara jumps back around to clarify one more time, “and you two take my hand, you’re both getting headaches?”

Slate and Gray look at each other. She answers, “Sort of. Since we’re sharing it, we each get a lesser version of whatever’s ailing you before we heal it away like you can’t.”

Sara has a genetic disorder from birth that would normally drastically increase, if not guarantee, miscarriage in a human without werewolf healing. The tricky part with Werewolf Sara Atwood is that the disorder has been a non-issue her whole life because the symptoms had been healed all the way up until her body had to try to combat the effects of pregnancy at the same time. Similar to her mother, Sara’s symptoms are significantly worse than the average woman. Gray heals the pain from pregnancy so her natural healing abilities can pick up the slack of the latent disorder and allow her to carry a healthy baby to term.

“Also,” Gray adds, nodding to Slate, “he and I have to be touching, not the both of us touching you.”

Slate gives Gray a questioning look then. She can’t read on his face what he’s asking, but she trusts him so she nods anyway. He nods back and flicks his eyes back at Sara. “Would you like to see?”

“See you both do it?” Sara asks.

Slate and Gray exchange another look, and Slate answers once he gets another nod of approval. “Yes.”

Sara grimaces. “I don’t want you to hurt yourselves, but--”

Abruptly Asher sighs and claws himself much the same way Slate had earlier, making Sara meep. Just like before, Gray instinctively reaches out for Asher--but an entirely new instinct makes her reach for Slate at the same time. Once again, Gray gets that odd sensation that always happens when she sees a wound disappearing on someone else, but not feel the full force of it on her own body. She and Slate bloom with smaller versions of Asher’s wound before they both heal it away much quicker than when she’d healed Slate from the same wound.

Even though she’d seen Gray do the same thing to Slate earlier, Sara still gasps. “Wow,” she says.

“Wow,” Jason agrees.


TO BE CONTINUED...

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