We’re just a couple of weeks away from the release of Caged Wolf, the second in the Wolves of Willow Bend. Would you like a taste? I thought you might!
Two thousand one hundred and ninety
one days, three hundred and twelve weeks, seventy-four agonizing full moons—the
full sum of the six years since he’d
been consigned to hell weighed upon A.J. Buckley. He faced the courtroom as
they dangled the bait of freedom. Dressed in a new suit he hadn’t purchased which
still stank of human tailors barely registered past the curtain of his
isolation. Not even the presence of a dominant male wolf acting as his attorney
ruffled him. He sat without comment or expression as they debated his future.
What did he care? They’d taken him
out of the cage, dressed him, shackled him, and shuffled him into the heart of
human justice. They should have left him alone, but even on that point he could
barely bring himself to react. Ryan Huston appeared at his prison, ordered him
into clothes then accompanied him to the court house. He went because he was
told to do so.
When they were done, he would go
back because he’d been told.
“Your Honor, the following
affidavits signed and certified by the Medical Examiner, his assistant, and one
crime scene tech state the police failed to properly preserve the crime scene
prior to their arrival and continued to contaminate the scene during the investigation,
thereby obstructing justice.” Ryan
Huston touched the folder on his desk. “The expert testimony of these witnesses
was certified by the prosecution during the initial trial.”
The judge was an older man with a
stern visage. He flipped through the papers in front of him and glanced from
Ryan to the men in suits at the opposing table. “Mr. Langfield, Mr. Huston is
correct. You certified all of these witnesses as experts, which means their
affidavits are also certifiable to this court.”
“Yes, Your Honor.” Mr. Langfield
sounded particularly glum about the subject. The faint odors of bleach almost drowned
out the sour note of his disdain, or maybe it was the lemon polish used on the
wooden table and fixtures throughout the room. Both burned A.J.’s nose.
“Why wasn’t this testimony entered during
the original trial, Mr. Huston?”
“The witnesses were never asked,
Your Honor. Their testimony and reports were given, and only the facts of those
findings were questioned, not the condition in which the evidence was collected
nor the interference of the police officers on scene.”
The prosecutor hurled words into
the air, but they still sounded pro forma. “Objection, Your Honor. Relies on
“I thought these three were all
involved in the processing of the scene and the body?” The judge’s inquiry was
met by icy silence before the prosecutor nodded. When the jurist continued to
ask questions, A.J. stopped listening. He didn’t give a damn about the
squabbling over the bones of this information. What good did it do?
Ryan answered several questions,
never resuming his seat. On his feet, he commanded attention. Why Toman chose
this moment to send the pack’s attorney to liberate him escaped A.J.. Maybe his
task wasn’t to liberate, maybe it was simply to tease. What else could his
alpha do except dangle the opportunity of escape then snatch it away?
could kill me. That action, however, would be a gift, one he didn’t think
Toman would bestow upon him. He hadn’t when A.J. had been arrested. He hadn’t
during the trial. He hadn’t when they’d thrown him into the cage and locked the
No, the alpha of Willow Bend had
simply ignored him. Exile would have been kinder. Death would have been easier.
Cool, creamy strawberries with a bite of chill teased his nostrils. A.J. jerked
his attention from the distance to focus on the room. Like a promise of
refreshment, the fruity scent stroked his senses evoking the memories of hot
summer days, and a treat to escape the heat.
“Mr. Huston, are you prepared to
present these witnesses to the court for cross-examination?”
“Yes, Your Honor. They are waiting
A shuffle of movement, a halting
panicked breath of air and A.J. turned his head a fraction. She sat in the back
of the courtroom, her wan expression too pale and sallow beneath her natural
skin tone. No longer supple and lithe, she looked as though all the vitality
had been drained from her. Skin stretched over her cheekbones too tautly. Her caramel
eyes were large, and the pupils constricted.
The doors opened and pushed a fresh
wave of her scent toward him. Hands clenching, he switched his attention to the
new arrivals. Deeming none a threat, he returned to studying her. Her gaze
collided with his, and awareness clanged off the hardened layers of apathy encasing
“Your Honor, in the event you throw
out the evidence collected at the scene, I move for an immediate reverse of the
conviction as the prosecutor never had a case to begin with.”
Another hurried discussion brought
the attorneys to the judge’s bench. A.J. could hear every word they said, but
very little of the subject registered. He’d ordered Vivian to not testify. Was
she here for the prosecution? Would they try to force her testimony as they had
the first time? Despite her steadfast refusal, the prosecutor had hammered at
her on the stand. It had taken every ounce of his effort to stay in his seat.
He’d wanted to savage them all—more
so when they’d arrested her. The image of her being taken from the room in
handcuffs had been burned into his brain.
“You’re growling,” Ryan said, his
voice too soft for most ears. “Stop.”
Closing his eyes briefly, he
swallowed the sound. When he opened them again, Vivian was gone leaving only
the faint hint of her scent.