13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale

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9780312609146: 13 to Life: A Werewolf's Tale

Everything about Jessie Gillmansen's life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she's about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent?he's a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie's small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can't avoid...

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About the Author:

Shannon Delany is the author of Beasts and BFFs and Secrets and Shadows. A much-abbreviated version of 13 to Life (written in just five weeks) won the grand prize in the western world's first-ever cell phone novel contest. Shannon has written stories ever since she was a child. Previously a teacher and now a farmer raising heritage livestock in upstate New York, she has always been fascinated by history, myths, legends and paranormal research.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue: Something Wicked This Way Comes

Rio stiffened beneath my touch, striking a glossy hoof against the floor.

“What, girl?” I asked, still fighting the tangle that snarled her ebony mane. She snorted, nostrils turning the red of fresh blood. She shook, long neck yanking the brush out of my fingers. It bounced off the opposite stall wall with a thump. “Rio!” Keeping a hand on her, I walked around to her other side and leaned down to search for the brush. For a moment everything was eerily still — completely quiet. Then my dogs, Maggie and Hunter, leaped up from where they’d been dozing, snouts propped on a bag of feed. They rushed the barn door, exploding in a fit of barking.

The other horses whickered, voices filled with equal parts concern and frustration. Hooves stomped, crackling hay.

“What the--?” My fingers danced down Rio’s velvety nose. “Shhh. It’s okay, girl.” Slipping out of her stall, the fine hairs on my arms stood as if lightning charged the autumn air. “Everything’s okay,” I insisted as I marched over to Maggie and Hunter.

They were not convinced. Wedging myself in the middle of the two of them, I snaked my hands around their collars and peered through the narrow opening separating the barn’s huge doors. The barnyard was strangely silent, as if everything simultaneously shut its mouth to stare with fearful wonder at whatever stalked the shadows. The dogs pulled, pawing and growling.

The unnaturally white expanse where the barnyard spotlight flooded the space between the first barn and the house stretched out like a broad scar before me. Never before had it seemed so ugly and bare — or such a great distance. A cool night breeze pushed the faint noise of television to me. Dad was watching reruns of that crazy video show. Would he hear us over the blare of television if we needed help? The answer hit like a rock dropping into my stomach as Dad’s laugh punctuated the suddenly calm air and he cranked up the volume.

I glanced down at the dogs. Crap. I was on my own with only Dumb and Dumber to help.

My gaze scraped across the yard from the reassuring glow of my home’s windows to the tall spotlight. I whispered calming words to the dogs — vague promises of tasty snacks. Huh. Usually gobs of moths fluttered in the glare of the spotlight, bats darting in and out to catch dinner. Tonight there was nothing. The air had gone still, but my apprehension made it seem to buzz with electricity.

I swallowed. A shadow sliced across my field of vision, briefly blotting out the light and I stumbled back, fingers slipping free of the dogs’ collars. Maggie and Hunter’s voices blended into a single thin and wavering whine. I grabbed a pitchfork leaning against the wall and held it before me.

Something shoved at the other side of the door. Nudged the giant door so it wobbled. The creature whuffled the airlike a hound searching for a trail. Its nose, nearly broad as my palm and black as the shadow its body cast, thrust between the doors, nostrils stretching as it sucked down our scent. The dogs slinked back to me, tails tucked and bodies trembling as I brandished the pitchfork.

But far more frightening than the huge nose (at the height of my chest, I realized) was the line of teeth visible between dark rubbery lips. Long and jagged, they left no doubt they were designed to shred.

The beast snorted, a sound that rivaled Rio, and then — as suddenly as the thing had appeared — it was gone. I gasped. Trembling like my dogs, I looked at the pitchfork in my hands and laughed. Add a torch and I’d be set to join the mob in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. What did I think was out there? A monster?

I winked at Maggie and Hunter. “Probably just old Monroe’s dog Harold anointing everybody’s fence posts,” I assured. They wagged their tails, but knew better than to trust my words.

I set the pitchfork back in place and busied myself tidying the barn, too aware I hesitated to switch off the lights and cross the bare and bright white expanse between here and home. Too soon there was nothing left to clean or rearrange. And tomorrow was a school day.

I steeled myself for the walk back to the house. “Come on, Hunter. That’s a good girl, Maggie.” Dread clenching my heart, I remembered the strange stories that came out of the city of Farthington last year. Flanked by my dogs, I walked swiftly to the house.

I only relaxed when the door closed and the bolt slid into place. Hunter looked up at me expectantly, sitting like the gentleman he was far from being. And very happy to remind me with a solemn look from his soulful golden eyes of the snacks I’d recently promised.

Chapter One: Summoned

I closed the door behind me, heading down the hallway and straight to Hell. The hall glowed eerily in the morning light. Outside, the wind snarled and threw a kaleidoscope of dry leaves against the large windows. I was sure whoever summoned me had very good intentions, but that only encouraged the gnawing sensation in my gut. Wasn’t the road to Hell paved with good intentions?

My feet dragged the whole way to Guidance. The call had gotten me out of Ms. Ashton’s Literature class — not gym. Nobody ever got called out of gym.

The whole thing made me suspicious. Why did Guidance need me? Had they finally figured out who wrote that scathing editorial about the double standards between the jocks and the nerds? Considering what I knew of Guidance I could be fairly certain they hadn't, at least not without assistance.

When the call came rattling through the intercom system, I’d shot a look at a fellow editor who shrugged. I presumed I hadn't been ratted out.

Then why was I being summoned? Sure, I was perpetually late handing library books in and there were at least three times I'd signed in tardy with the nurse and accidentally taken her pen. But seriously. If Guidance wanted to summon a troublemaker they had the wrong girl. Well — pretty much.

My sneakers scuffed along the oatmeal-colored tile floor and I sighed. God, I asked, don't let them be holding some stupid intervention for me about Mom. The thought stopped me cold. I looked at the flimsy blue pass in my hand. How bad would it be to forge a time and signature on it and go back to class? Would Guidance remember they'd called? It was nearly the end of first quarter so wouldn’t they be scrambling to organize last minute study sessions with the kids slipping (or diving) through the cracks?

I glanced up the hallway; its cinderblock walls seemed to tighten around me. Breathe… The walls retreated. There was no witness to see me scrawl the signature Mr. Maloy joked was proof he could have been a doctor. I could make a quick u-turn and head back to class… I chewed my lower lip, considering the odds I’d get caught. Hmph.

I turned down the hall and opened the door to Guidance; scanning the waiting room I looked for a coat or hat belonging to my dad — anything to warn me to leave before someone with a Master's degree decided it was best for me to talk about my innermost feelings — again. But there was no sign of Dad.

A poster hung on one wall, obviously an art project, raising awareness about the rash of teen suicides occurring on the train tracks between Farthington and Junction. Could things ever be so bad I’d willingly jump onto the tracks before an approaching train? The tension fell out of my shoulders. No. I wasn’t a suicide risk. I’d witnessed the worst and I was still here. I exhaled, surprised to find I’d been holding my breath.

The secretary was focused on a magazine.  Its blaring red cover featured titles including “What Type of Tree Would Your Lover Be” and “When to Worry about His Psycho Ex.” I cleared my throat. She looked up, saying, "Oh. Jessica," and pointed a carefully manicured finger towards the conference room. "Mr. Maloy's waiting."

"Fabulous."

She smiled, big eyes pleasantly blank. Clueless. I figured it was best to have someone like her greeting folks as they entered Guidance. She'd never panic if bullets started flying. She probably wouldn’t even notice unless they clipped her stylish hair.

I knocked on the conference room door, goose bumps raising the fine hairs on my arms. I'd been here before, sitting on one of many hard plastic chairs pulled in a tight circle as counselors and teachers told me how much I still had to look forward to in life. How great it would all still be if I only tuned back in… How they all cared for me and were there to support me… And I'd hated it. None of what they said mattered. They were paid to say stuff like that. Probably contractually obligated.

Besides, I always hated things that made me cry. And I knew I was strong enough to cope with what happened. Without help.

As the door opened I saw a group of people I didn't recognize, along with Junction High’s head counselor and a police officer. Weird, but a relief. No intervention, then — obviously this party wasn’t for me; I was merely a guest.

"Jessica," Mr. Maloy rose from his spot at the far side of the table.

The cop leaned against the wall by the window.

The others turned to face me. They were tall and well-built with high cheekbones and strong jaws — even the single girl standing with the three guys. They had thick dark hair, glinting eyes — and nametags.

"These are the Rusakovas." Mr. Maloy motioned to the group.

Out of the corner of my eye I watched the cop pick up a brochure on the windowsill. It had to just be coincidence he was here. Just more bad timing — typical stuff at my high school.

I turned my attention back to the Rusakovas. I smiled encouragingly.

They did not.

Mr. Maloy rounded the table, and peering none too subtly at their nametags pointed to one of them, announcing, "This is Peter Rusakova. He's in tenth grade this year. A sophomore, just like you."

I kept the smile plastered across my lips, groaning inwardly. So that was what this was about. "Hello, Peter." I couldn’t help my uninspired tone. I wasn’t a girl who liked being saddled with the responsibility of escorting newbies to classes.

Mr. Maloy slid his glasses back up the bridge of his nose and gave me a warning glance. "Here is Peter's schedule. Show him around and make sure he's not late."

The police officer glanced at me, saying slowly to Peter, “Got that Rusakova? Don’t be late.”

Something prickled along my spine at his tone.

The eldest in the group smiled broadly and wrapped his arm around Peter. “Of course he won’t be late, Officer Kent,” he guaranteed. “Peter is very glad to be at Junction High.”

Peter did not seem so convinced.

Officer Kent said, “We can’t have people avoiding an education.”

“We were getting one,” the other boy, according to his nametag Maximilian, muttered.

The eldest cuffed him on the back of the head, attempting comedy, but I sensed a threat in the display.

I took the slip of paper and quickly compared it to my own. I looked from the officer to Peter and back to the schedule. Handing my pass over for a signature, my eyes paused on Peter again. He glowered darkly before me, a sharp contrast to the eldest male’s bright smile.

I should have forged Mr. Maloy's signature after all.

"Okay," I said, more to myself than my silent ward. "We're both in Ashton's Lit class; let's head in that direction for starters."

Peter gave one brief nod of his head, but his face was a tight mask of disinterest.

Exiting the office, I tried to keep my curiosity in check while I steered him by locations he’d need to know as a student at Junction High. I pointed and explained until my arms were tired and my mouth was dry. He never said a word. Never responded with more than a nod. Bathroom, library, cafeteria, art, shop, band, gym, main office, nurse…

In-School Suspension…

I eyed him, speculating. Who knew how fast somebody like him could land in ISS? He had that could-be-trouble look. And obviously he came with baggage of the police escort type. But surely he wasn’t dangerous… The cops would never let me lead a real criminal to classes, would they? I continued walking and explaining, gradually increasing the distance between us.

If he noticed, he never mentioned it.

The thought he could be dangerous made me nervous. And when I get nervous, I get talkative. I glanced at his schedule again. “Oh. Your name’s not Peter,” I said, wondering if I’d been pronouncing it at all correctly. Huh. P-i-e-t-r. “It’s Pie-eater-”

He winced.

I read it again, “No, Pee-yoh-ter--”

He stared at me.

“Pay—oder?” I tried. I was determined to get it right. Mr. Maloy had obviously botched this like everything else. My mouth twisted, ready to go one more round with the word, but he raised a hand, staring at me like he was in shock. Or maybe pain. I felt my ears go tomato-red.

“I have never heard so many — creative — pronunciations of my name.” He smiled, but only briefly. “Peter,” he said. “The pronunciation is the same. Just not the spelling.” He tugged off the misspelled nametag and crumpled it up.

"Oh.” He didn’t seem dangerous… “Weird,” I said suddenly. “You know, it’s actually kind of spelled like my worry stone…” I dug into my jeans’ pocket and pulled out the large flat bead I carried. Gold, silver and milky white threaded through dark blue. “This is Pietersite. P-I-E-T-E-R.” I held it out in my open palm and thought I saw momentary interest in his eyes.

“A worry stone?”

“My dad’s idea. It’s also called Tempest Stone. People say it’s good for a lot of stuff, like dealing with change and transformation. Oh. And your gall bladder, I think. Or spleen.” I shrugged, slipping it back into my pocket. He definitely looked interested now. Maybe he had spleen issues.

“What do you think it’s good for?”

“Rubbing when I’m stressed.” I shrugged again. “Besides, like Shakespeare said: What’s in a name, right?”

He looked past me. “Romeo and Juliet. I hate that play.”

“Well.” How could anyone with a brain hate a classic like that? “A good writer should get people to feel something, I guess.” I started walking again, hoping to catch his attention. Even when he spoke directly to me he seemed distant. Unreachable. Like this wasn’t important.

What was it with him? Was I being blown off?

“So, um. Why the cop?” I figured I’d just go for it. Ask the question about the elephant in the room.

Pietr didn’t pause, just continued walking beside me. “We went to Europe last year and didn’t tell the school.”

“Oh.” My brain reeled at the thought of just going to Europe. “So you basically skipped school for a few--”

“Months.”

“Oh.”

We walked for a while in silence, down the long corridor of tall windows leading towards the English department’s classrooms. There was just the noise of my shoes squeaking on the tile floor. His sneakers never made a sound and I looked over more than once to make sure someone actually walked beside me.

I hoped I hadn’t suddenly suffered a psychotic break and imagined the meeting in Maloy’s office. Although I wasn’t sure why I’d conjure someone like Pietr during a psychotic episode… That was probably just it, though. You didn’t know what to expect during a psychotic episode. Or when it would happen. You just knew everyone expected you to snap and eventually have one. At least, if you were me.

To relieve the silence I...

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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 206 x 137 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Jessica s life was difficult enough since the sudden loss of her mother, but meeting Pietr Rusakova turns her world completely upside down. The newest member of Junction High, Pietr is a first generation Russian-American, a fact that by itself gets him lots of attention in the small town. But Pietr has far more going for him than good looks and an interesting accent. Pietr has secrets to hide - like the fact that he s a werewolf! These secrets lead Jessica into an exciting and dangerous world where her understanding of reality and what makes someone a man or a monster are challenged. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312609146

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Book Description St Martin s Press, United States, 2010. Paperback. Book Condition: New. 206 x 137 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. Jessica s life was difficult enough since the sudden loss of her mother, but meeting Pietr Rusakova turns her world completely upside down. The newest member of Junction High, Pietr is a first generation Russian-American, a fact that by itself gets him lots of attention in the small town. But Pietr has far more going for him than good looks and an interesting accent. Pietr has secrets to hide - like the fact that he s a werewolf! These secrets lead Jessica into an exciting and dangerous world where her understanding of reality and what makes someone a man or a monster are challenged. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780312609146

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