Welcome to the unreal?

Good evening and welcome to what will likely be a very raw and unfiltered post. Unlike many of my other posts, which go through a rigorous review and proofreading process, this is a little more stream of consciousness.

Why?

My paperback released for pre-sales today. And I was not emotionally prepared for the response.

For those of you who have been following me for a bit, you know my book release for Kindle pre-sales way back at the end of June. It’s been fun too! I occasionally check Amazon’s Author Central to see how its doing. I can tell when a post here hits a nerve or touches a heart because I’ll see a temporary spike in ranking from someone buying a copy of the book. It warms my heart that people trust a brand new author (been writing fiction for 20+ years) in their debut novel (in fiction, I’ve been published… elsewhere) enough to buy an e-book on pre-sale, full well knowing it will be a while before they can read it. I assumed in the pandemic end times of 2020, paper books, the antithesis of “buy now” and slow to ship, were dead.

But on social media (Twitter, FaceBook, and Instagram) I hear a different story. There were still a few wonderful and stalwart souls who, like me, love books, physical books.

A piece of another world they could hold in their hands. A sliver of some other reality they could curl up around, under a warm blanket, on a rainy day, to pass the time safely existing in another life.

These are my people.

A few people assured me they would buy the book, bless them, when it was available on paper. I took those pledges with a grain of salt, knowing that the busy world we live in washes over our memories, erasing those little hidden gems like the announcement of a new book. I don’t blame anyone that forgot it would be available as a real, physical paper book. I cannot begin to count the million little promises I made to myself over things I wanted that slipped from my mind. (And my bank account probably thanks me.)

My wonderful publisher got the book finalized and off to the publisher recently. (On time and budget, it’s a miracle!) And we were all please to see the first round of physical books would be available on release day!

I love Amazon but I didn’t have faith they’d have the physical copies up for pre-sale at all. Until today. I got a text early this morning “Hey, I thought you said your paperback wouldn’t be up for pre-sale?” Uh yeah, I didn’t think so either! Check. Double check. Ask for friends on Twitter to check for me… yes, it’s available for pre-sale. Oh, my goodness, I HAVE A REAL BOOK FOR SALE!

Look, if you’re a writer, you know. If you follow me because I run really far, let me explain: an e-book is amazing, you can read everything you’ve written, but when you grew up with a deep and abiding love for the smell of an old library, knowing your book with come to fruition in physical form is a minor miracle.

So, I smiled a little, went off to my day job, and enjoyed a day so long and stressful that I didn’t – couldn’t – stop for lunch. And when I came home, I decided to check my Amazon ranking again.

I almost passed out. I might have cried. I did math three times in two different ways because I didn’t believe what I saw.

In only a little over nine hours, my book was in the top 1.2% of paperbacks for sale on Amazon.

Let me blink really hard and clear my vision again.

Amazon has 8-million books available for sale. I’m in the top 1.2%... and it’s still in pre-sale.

Welcome to the unreal.

Yes, Amazon has crazy, wonky algorithms… yeah, it will probably drop. Yes, it will definitely drop.

But today. For just one day. I am a brand new fiction author with a book for sale that cracks not just the top 50%… the top 10%… but the top 1.2% of all Amazon’s physical books for sale. I am living a dream.

I am elated. I am so thankful for everyone who follows me. The people who support me, the would-be overnight success, fifteen years in the making. The people who have encouraged me through this journey. And if this crazy unreal continues, I will owe it to the people who have supported me along the way. As the man said, “You’re the real MVP!” and I am grateful for you in my life.


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

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Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Born, Not Bitten (Part 13)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


Chuck arrived promptly at 7:18pm, thirty minutes before sundown. When Summer opened her door, she laughed because he looked like the very epitome of the “tacti-cool vetbro.” He was decked out in black cargo pants, brown hiking boots, a black baseball cap pulled down to his deep blue eyes, and a black t-shirt that looked at least a size too small as it stretched over his pecs and delts.

“Didn’t you say you got out after Desert Storm? Aren’t you too old to be this big a douche?”

“What?” Chuck spluttered, clearly anticipating a warmer, or certainly less mocking, welcome.

“You look like either a contract mercenary or an extra to a shitty ‘Mission Impossible’ knock off,” Summer said with a grin.

“Summer, I am a contract killer hired to kill werewolves.”

Summer’s face fell and an uncomfortable silence stretched between them.

“It’s a twenty minute drive, we’d better go,” Chuck finally told her.

Summer nodded once. Without a word, she snagged a phone and keys, bolted her front door, and followed Chuck to his non-descript gray beater. For the second time in two nights, she questioned her own sanity for getting into a car with the man. Incubus. Demon. Whatever.

The beater’s engine purred to life under a dented but otherwise well kept exterior before Summer could close the door. She brooded, quietly wondering what she wanted and needed from this meeting. The silence of their drive was broken only by the hum of tires on cracked asphalt. Unlike the night before, Summer felt no need to dig into what was coming with Chuck.

As a girl, she had often daydreamed about what her life would be like had one or both of her parents survived. She built wild fantasies where one or the other would show up to the homestead, announce themselves and their desire to take Summer away. She longed for that fantasy of a normal life, normal friends, normal expectations of her life. She wanted a home culture more aligned with the culture of those around her.

Summer’s eyes swept the narrow paved drive as they drove towards the dock. She wouldn’t admit it aloud, but secretly she hoped she would see her father. To see him, not some violent Alpha. They would make eye contact. He would smile, acknowledge her and her place in both his life and heart. They would talk, maybe hostile at first, but when she explained her place in the pack, he would relent and let Aunt Rose go, leaving them in peace. Maybe they would even make plans to meet again, somewhere less hostile, and get to know one another.

The longing for something that she had never even had in the first place burned her. It was a homesickness for a home that never existed.

Chuck eased the beater off the bumpy park road and onto the gravel patch that passed as a parking lot. Summer opened the door and took a deep breath as she stepped out of the car.

“At least three other them,” she told Chuck. “And I can smell Aunt Rose.” Fear touched her voice.

Chuck gave one sweeping glance. “Amateurs,” he spat.

“What?”

“They only brought three, plus Rose. One will be the Alpha, maybe two Lieutenants who can keep sane through a conversation, maybe not. And Rose is being used as a bargaining chip. To keep you on edge, off balance, or maybe just to show they can. It’s amateurish.”

“Why? And how do you know there aren’t more hiding in the trees?”

“How do you know there aren’t?”

“I can only smell the three, plus Rose.”

“Well, I can sense human heartbeats. So, unless they’ve found a way to shift under a waning crescent moon, there’s only three.”

“Heartbeats, huh?”

Chuck shrugged. “I always knew when a patient was gone. Always know when I’m walking into an ambush. Being an incubus has its advantages,” he told her. “Even when it has its disadvantages,” he mumbled, probably thinking it was too quiet for Summer to catch.

A hint of warmth spread across her middle as she remembered him abruptly cutting off something that hadn’t really started last night. It soured when she recalled the strange, predatory silver look of his eyes. She felt another longing for something that she never had, but it burned her in another, less unpleasant way.

“Let’s go,” she told him.

They walked the short gravel parking lot to the paved road of the boat launch. A simple wooden pier paralleled the launch where it sloped into the shallow river. Despite it being a sultry Saturday night in the summer, not another person was around the launch, unusual for a Southern water hole. Summer suspected that any fun seekers had been driven off when the Alpha and his crew had arrived.

Summer’s eyes graze past the three feral werewolves to look Aunt Rose up and down as she approached. They had taken the old woman’s cane and put tape over her mouth. One strong looking feral supporting her elbow and there was a trace of blood crusted in her silver hair. But other than an irritated expression on her face, she looked unharmed and well. Summer internally sighed with relief.

Summer’s eyes moved to the man beside her. He was average height, slightly shorter than the two muscular wolves beside him. Pale blond hair lay in whisps around his hair like corn silk. She tried to make out his eye color but couldn’t at this distance. She was curious that he looked so different from her own gold, brown, and chocolate coloring. Maybe because she resembled her the coloring of her wolf and he was born human. Another few steps and she could make out his pale blue eyes in his hardened face.

Summer opened her mouth to speak as they approached, but Chuck caught her arm discretely.

“Cautiously,” he told her in a whisper.

She pulled her arm out of his and glared at him. “I know what I’m doing, demon.” Summer strode forward and suddenly, every inch of her radiated the same commanding presence she had the night before.

“Alpha!” She called out.

The blonde in the center of the group straightened at her bark and Summer was almost disappointed to see he was the leader.

“Summer?” he called back.

If Summer flinched, she hid it in her forceful strides forward. “I want my Aunt back.”

“Then come and take her.”

“No. This is a parlay. We won’t resort to violence.” Her words were calm, but another glance at the blood in Rose’s hair had anger welling up inside her.

“You won’t resort to violence, you mean? I’ll do whatever the hell I damn well please.”

Summer halted several paces away. Her lip curled and she practically quivered with rage at his arrogance, but she held it together.

“Calm, he’s trying to rile you up,” Chuck whispered on her right.

“What do you want?” Summer asked. She was quiet, her voice calm and steady. Inside, she still seethed.

“Quite simply, I want you.”

A hundred childhood dreams and fantasies took flight in an instant. The seething anger ebbed away. Summer’s heart swelled and she took a deep breath, ready to answer.

Chuck’s hand brushed lightly against hers, pulling her back from the childish fantasies. She composed herself and asked the only question that mattered.

“Why?”

“You’re my child, isn’t that enough?”

“Why now?” Summer clarified and frost could have grown on her words.

“I always intended to come for you,” he told her and she felt the emotional whiplash as hope flared in her once more. “But the pack wouldn’t let me. I could never get close enough to the Asteraceae homestead to contact you.” He gave her a warm smile as one of his enforcers shifted behind him. “I loved your mother and knew you would be special like her. I couldn’t let someone so special slip from my life.”

The enforce werewolf shuffled again and Summer realized it was because Aunt Rose was squirming. She caught Summer’s eyes and unreadable look in them. Summer frowned.

Her father must have caught the frown and thought it was directed at him. “I wasn’t always feral, you know. I met Autumn, your mother, before I was ever bitten. I loved her. I wanted to spend my life with her and tried to prove it every day. I moved to the homestead, the only human in the entire settlement.”

He hung his head, as if the words weighed on him. “But, I was bitten not long after in an attack on the homestead. It was ok at first. I had an entire pack to ease me through the transition, even if they were all born werewolves.”

Summer’s heart warmed to hear that her pack would try to help him when she knew how much they had always told her they despised bitten werewolves.

“Autumn became pregnant not long after,” he said and grinned as if the memory warmed him. “As it turns out, being mated to a bitten werewolf allowed me to hang on to sanity. Much longer than if I had been alone with no one to help ground me. She taught me what a feral pack could not and I adapted well. But, the pack started to turn on us. They were afraid of me. Of what our baby, you, would be. But Autumn stood by me and refused to let them kill me. I supposed I started getting more violent. They told me I could be the pack’s ‘enforcer,’ but while useful, I was shunned for what I did.”

Hope flared in Summer, hearing that her father had faced what she had faced. The pack had assumed the worst, not willing to let either of them have a chance to be themselves. She ignored Aunt Rose’s frantic squirming.

“Why did you leave me?” she asked. “You know what they were like, that they would do the same to me. Why would you leave me with them?”

“I tried. I tried to bring you with me, please understand,” he pleaded. “I tried to convince Autumn to leave, to let me bite her so she could be strong like me, but she refused.” He shook his head sadly.

“Bite her?” Summer asked, her eyes widening. Chuck stepped a half step closer to her.

“I left you with Dittany and took Autumn for a drive. I knew, I just knew, that if I could get her away, get her somewhere the pack couldn’t interfere, I could convince her. I tried to explain why she should let me bite her: she’d be stronger, she would feel more like me, we could run away from the pack and their asinine rules together. She was considering allowing it until I explained that we would have would bite you too.” His face went hard. “She refused, not wanting to let that happen to you until you were old enough to make the decision on your own.” He shook his head, cornsilk hair drifting around in a halo. “I knew that once Autumn was bitten, she’d forget about you, Summer. She would only want to run and hunt, unless you were bitten as well. And she refused. Refused to make you the best version of you!”

Summer stepped back, into Chuck’s chest. His reassuring warmth spread into her.

“I now regret killing Autumn in that crash and abandoning you. But now that I hear how spectacularly violent you are, I know I was wrong then. You are the child of a born and a bitten werewolf. You have the control and the violence I need to run the two packs!”

Every childhood fantasy and hope evaporated in Summer’s sudden rage, a piece of her heart dying in an instant.

“Murder!” she howled and launched herself at him.

Chuck grabbed her by the waist before she could complete her leap and dragged her back, arms like iron bands holding her against his chest.

“So, you won’t be joining me then?” the Alpha asked. In Summer’s mind, she had already cut any acknowledgment that this man could be kin.

“Never,” she snarled and thrashed in Chuck’s arms.

“Then I have no need of her,” the Alpha said.

Before anyone could react, his hand transformed into a claw-tipped paw and he swiped at Rose, tearing her throat out without a single change in his expression.

Rose’s eyes widened and locked on Summer. A shrill screech filled Summer’s ears as she watched Rose convulse and drop to the ground. Blood gushing down her chest from a gaping hole in her neck as she fell. Summer was spun and tumbled, her arms and fists whirling furiously as she fought but was hauled at inhuman speeds across the parking lot. The shrill screech died as Chuck threw her in the back seat and she realized it was her howl. The beater roared to life and Chuck tore out of the parking lot as Summer begged him to go back, to let her fight the Alpha, or to retrieve Rose’s body.

“You shouldn’t have held me back,” she howled. “I could have grabbed her, I would have saved her!” Tears rolled down her cheeks and her horrified howls became choked sobs.

Chuck didn’t answer; he simply drove as fast as he could back to Summer’s townhouse. Summer curl up in a ball on his back seat. There no words left. They both knew they had been outnumbered and nothing could have prevented what happened.

An indeterminate time later, Chuck pulled Summer from his backseat, cradling her in his arms as he carried her into her townhouse. He set her gently on her couch, facing the darkened bay.

Somewhere, a part of Summer registered a dim light coming on and the clinking of glass. A tumbler of whiskey was shoved in her hand. She downed the contents in a single swallow and held it out for more. Chuck simply swapped the glass in his hand for hers then went to refill a glass for himself.

Summer sipped once, listening to the sound of crickets in her backyard and water lapping at the retaining wall that held back the bay.

“How much of that did you already know?” she asked into the semi-dark.

The sound of liquid pouring stopped and there was a long silence.

“All of it,” he admitted quietly.

“Get the fuck out of my home.”

Chuck set the tumbler down and walked out, his lithe steps silent in her darkened home.


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Born, Not Bitten (Part 12)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


The rumble of patched asphalt under the beater’s tires hummed through its frayed and worn cabin once more. Summer’s head rested against one hand with her elbow propped up by the faded, desiccated vinyl of the door. She scrunched her nose as she caught a whiff of blood, still lingering on her borrowed tank top.

“Why do you keep calling me ‘Pack Mistress’?” Summer finally asked.

Chuck’s hand flexed briefly on the wheel before he answered. “It’s what you are,” he said simply.

Summer picker her head up from where it rested on her hand and looked at him.

“Give me your hand,” he told her, taking one of his off the steering wheel and holding it out.

Summer looked at him a moment longer, hesitating. Finally, she placed hers lighting atop his.

Chuck clasped her hand lightly. “This,” he said, rubbing a thumb across the back of her hand, “there is more power in this one hand than your whole group of Elders.”

A shiver ran through Summer, searing heat and a shiver of cold all at once. “No. The Elder’s have run the Asteraceae Pack for decades. Since it was started, really. They founded the pack like this on purpose. They balance the needs of all rather than letting one individual dominate. As a group, they hold sway over the entire pack.”

But even as she spoke the words, Summer realized she doubted what she said. It was said by rote. Words said so many times they lost all meaning; they were only sounds falling from her mouth.

“The Elders say they lead. They’ve told you they lead. And that’s enough for you to keep following them. But they aren’t natural leaders and packs aren’t meant to be run by committee. You,” he squeezed her hand, “you, Summer, are a natural leader. You showed it tonight.”

Summer pulled her hand back slowly. “I’m not.”

“You are. You radiate power—confidence and control ooze out of you. I had researched you enough to guess you would have power, but I didn’t see it until tonight. Just before you went back into the shed. It shows in every step you take, that power. And I’m not the only one who feels it.”

Summer shook her head. “I’m an office worker. A nuisance to my pack who’s only good for one thing.” Summer’s mouth pinched into a narrow line and her brows furrowed.

“Maybe they tell you that. Maybe they’ve told you often enough that you believe it. But it took only five minutes for you to sway almost your entire pack away from the Elders to your side. You didn’t even have a side when you started. You spoke it into being.”

Summer set her hands in her lap. “But,” she hesitated, “now what?”

Chuck gave a shrug. “What do you want from them?” He eased the beater around a turn and the lights of Summer’s town came into view.

“Nothing,” she said quickly. Her shoulders slumped and she looked out the window at the growing number of streetlights.

“Nothing?”

“I want them to accept me for me. Accept that I love them, but I’m not one hundred percent like them. I don’t know why. I can’t explain why I can’t just settle in one of the cabins, get an outdoor job, and spend my time whittling and raising pups. It’s just–” she stopped. Summer shook her head. “It’s just not me.”

Chuck nodded, eyes on the deserted suburban landscape.

Summer rubbed her hand where Chuck had drawn his thumb across it. “Tomorrow. What do we do tomorrow?”

“Oh. Topic shift, ok.” Chuck gave a half smile. “You go in to talk, find out where your Aunt is, and I kill everyone who isn’t you or your Aunt?”

“Chuck!”

“It’s simple,” he said without even a trace of remorse.

“I was thinking we could do what I told the pack I would do: meet at the dock at sundown. Talk to,” she hesitated only a moment before going on, “the Alpha to determine his goals and find a mutually agreeable solution.”

“For someone who is so often accused of doing violence, you seem to be seeking a remarkably restrained, diplomatic solution.”

Summer’s eye narrowed. “I don’t want them harming Auntie Rose. I need to know what he’s after before I’ll be able to get her back.”

“Fine, no guns a blazin’ then. But I will go with you. If you go alone, it will not end well.” He pulled into the driveway of Summer’s townhouse. The beater’s engine shut down with a purr, the only hint that the engine was not original to the frame.

“You think I can’t handle one werewolf?” Summer unbuckled her seatbelt and put a hand on the door latch.

“I doubt it will be one werewolf and I think sending you alone to meet your violent father whom you’ve never met sounds like a terrible idea!”

“Fine,” Summer huffed and opened the door.

Chuck popped out of the driver’s side, meeting her at the front of the car. “So, I’ll pick you up a half hour before sundown?”

“Yeah, it’s a date,” she said. Summer’s face flamed under the townhouse’s security light. “I mean, yes. Fine. A half hour before sunset.”

“Weird first date, Summer,” Chuck told her with a wry grin as she fumbled for her keys.

“Second,” she shot back with a half grin. “This was a weird first date!”

Chuck raised one eyebrow and his lips turned up in an amused grin. “Do I get a good night kiss then?”

Summer looked back at him, seeing his boyish grin in the dim glow of her front porch light. “Oh hell, why not?”

She stood on her tiptoes and placed a hand on his neck, gently pulling him down to close the gap between their heights. She pressed a light kiss to his lips.

Gentle.

Perfect for a mock first date, until Chuck caught her waist and pushed her lightly against the wall. Something hungry and primal bloomed in her then. She half growled and deepened the kiss, her fingers twining in his hair and body arching into him as she pulled herself up to kiss him. The kiss picked up speed, one of Chuck’s hand squeezing her waist as the other drifted upwards. Summer writhed against him.

Chuck gasped and pushed back. “No, Summer. Not like this.”

Summer stepped back. In the span of one rapid breath, she caught his eyes in the dim porch light. They were no longer the deep blue she’d become used to seeing, but bright reflective silver. It hit her like thunder from an unexpected storm that his boyish face was a lie; at almost seventy years old, he was more than twice her age and the more dangerous predator of the two of them.

Still, something in her wanted to curse the fates, drag him inside, and keep him until they needed to leave for the parlay. She took a half step forward.

Clearly reading her face, Chuck held up a hand to her shoulder, lightly stopping her.

“No, Summer,” Chuck said and he shook his head. “It would be good. Amazing, I’m sure. But you’ll need your energy tomorrow. If we–” he stopped and looked over her shoulder, unable to meet her eyes. “Look, I want it. God damn, do I want to take you inside right now, push you up against a wall, and take this to a satisfying conclusion. But,” he shook his head, “I’d feed from you. I can’t help it. It’s just what happens when, well, when I do what I want to do right now. It’s the whole incubus thing.” He ran a frustrated hand through his dark hair. “And you need you be alert, awake, and full of energy tomorrow. I can’t in good conscious take that from you.”

He met her gaze again, eyes back to a deep blue.

Summer nodded. “Tomorrow then,” she told him quietly and went inside, shutting and locking the door without looking back.


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Confessions from the Trail: Nutrition

Hello fellow distance runners, fitness lovers, and distance runner stans! Today we’re tackling a topic that requires a disclaimer upfront. Ready for it?

I am not, nor have I ever been a certified nutritionist, dietitian, or even remotely trained/certified in telling people what to eat.

Got all that? Cool. Don’t sue me. Any time we talk about nutrition, keep in mind that everyone is a walking chemistry set and what works for me may not work for you. Or, your mileage may vary. Literally YMMV.

Also, this will not be a post focused on weight loss all though I will touch on it. Why? One, it’s been done. Everything you need to know about nutrition can be found here. (Warning, this article has swear words; but if you’re on my blog, you’re probably ok with that.) Second, I don’t care about weight loss right now. I care about fueling my body for maximum training output.

That’s right. Food is fuel and I try to enjoy every delicious bite. And when I don’t enjoy the food, my brain hates it. (Hello, poor food choices!) And if I don’t eat enough, training suffers. (Hello slogging through runs…)

Instead, let’s focus on why nutrition is important, daily nutrition (short runs/rest days), and nutrition for the long haul (race day and long runs). Then I’ll lightly touch on running in a deficit at the end. Got all that? Excited? Then let’s go!

First off, we’re tackling why nutrition is important. Have you ever had one of those runs where you just feel off? Tired even when you had a full night’s sleep? Legs feel like lead? Fingers are swelling? Brin feels stuffed full of cotton balls?

Do you chalk that up to “it’s just a bad run” or did you ever look at your nutrition that day and the days before? No one just has “a bad run.” There is always a reason and while you can point to injury, overtraining, and dehydration, nutrition definitely plays a big role. Sad to break it to you, diets aren’t just about looking good.

People get very skittish when you mention the D word. Diets hold a negative connotation in American society: restriction, hunger, fatigue… all things you don’t want to be facing while building muscle and endurance. However, a diet is, at its very core, the type and quantity of food you eat. It’s also why I refer to it as “nutrition” not “diet.” My goal is always to roll up to the starting line with enough muscle to move me along and enough fat to carry me through without holding me back. High body fat means I’m carrying weight that isn’t working for me, but low body fat means I am more tired, more hungry, and more cold during training and the race.

Eating enough – Daily nutrition for the short runs days and rest days:

Since I don’t hold a fancy degree or certification in anything, I’ll just describe how I figure out what is “enough.” First, I’m a gadget freak; I love my smartwatches and calculators and step counters and… a whole lot of things that may or may not actually be accurate. So, I’ll track my burn for my five non-long run days to establish a rough average. For me, that’s about 2300 calories. A quick check on a site like https://www.calculator.net/bmr-calculator.html shows me that’s about right for someone working out 6-7 days a week, maybe even a little high.

I’ve also had my Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) checked by my doctors during bodybuilding season, so I feel fairly confident that these numbers are a good average.

On a normal workout day, I plan my meals to hit around 2300 calories. A few calories over or under doesn’t hurt unless you start going over/under consistently, then you’ll see the scale move. I don’t worry much about days where I know I work harder/easier than others because it comes out in the average.

My daily diet is pretty consistent. However, on long run days, I’ll add just a little extra to cover the extra burn. But not much, remember, that already accounts for exercising every day – one hundred calories on my Friday 5k and maybe 50-75 calories per mile for a Sunday run.

And before anyone starts screeching that I’m way under-fueling my Sunday long run, I eat as I run and it’s not counted in my 50-75 cal per mile extra. This is to establish my daily intake.

Is there really such a thing as “junk food”?

Yes and no. Back to the idea that “everyone is a walking chemistry set:” each person reacts slightly differently to different foods and food combinations. I do well on a high protein, high carb (but low gluten), and low fat diet. My partner could live and run happily on high protein, high fat, and low carb every day of his life. Neither of us do well on heavily processed foods these days but whether that’s old age, training regime, or a lack of nutritional density is up for anyone to decide. I do keep track of my macros (protein, carbs, and fat) to ensure I hit a good (for me) combination and stay on my caloric target. But if I occasionally (like, once a week) have pizza it’s ok, as long as I account for the higher fats and lower protein within my other meals that day. I’m not a monk, I enjoy my food, and because I do include a lot of whole foods and nutritionally dense foods, I feel pretty good most of the time.

I won’t tell you what you can and can’t eat, but if you’re reading this and suspect that something you’re eating isn’t helping you towards your goals, try cutting it out for a week or two and see how you feel. Then make your own conclusions.

The bottom line with daily nutrition? The right diet is the one that’s sustainable.

Eating on the move – Fueling long runs and races:

Fueling during a long run… Man, I’m not going to tell you what to eat on those long runs. Self-propelled chemistry sets, remember? What works for me might have you puking in the ditch two miles down the road. All I can say is look for calorically dense foods (nut butters, candy bars, quesadillas, etc.) , things you can consume while moving, and things that have a good balance of carbs, fat, and protein with maybe a little salt.

“But Kay, what do *you* eat???”

Short runs: Nothing. Anything in the 5-6 mile range, I might carry something high in carbs like M&Ms. They’re easy to chew, can be doled out in small bits, and chocolate! Even better, the hazelnut M&Ms. Oh heaven!

Middle distance runs (6-12 miles): After an hour I start adding in nut butters like almond, hazelnut, and peanut butter. I’ve found a couple companies that make them in 125-150 calorie packs that are easy to squeeze as you run. I’ve tried making my own granola bars, but for personal reasons, I have a hard time eating granola bars. I will also start taking small amounts of caffeine in this range.

Long distance run (half marathon and beyond): Whatever the aide station has! Seriously, at this point anything that will stay down goes in: salted boiled potatoes, cookies, flat Coke, potato chips, PB&J sandwiches, gels, bananas, Stroop waffles, a hamburger… At Mississippi 50 I ate a piece of bacon at mile 27 that was the nectar of the gods. Ultra aide stations are the wild west, if you’re picky you’d better pack your own food in that drop bag!

Remember, eat things you enjoy. It also pays to have back up snacks. When you are in the mental doldrums of a long race/run, your brain will start doing weird stuff. That perfect snack you planned? Yeah, your cranky toddler of brain doesn’t want it any more and you’re forcing yourself to choke it down. I always have my favorite snacks I know will work without gastro issues, but I also carry a back up that’s very different. For example, gels have been working this season? Awesome, carry five and a small pack of cookies. Cookies are carb heavy but the taste and texture difference might be enough to bump me out of a mental rut and back on my planned nutrition.

I also take shameless advantage of the aide station food. Big commercialized road races have shit aide stations. All they care about is getting as many runners through as quick as they can because it’s profitable. Ultra’s tend to be small races, so race directors lure us in with snack. Sweet, glorious snacks. And like The Oatmeal describes, during a race, I treat my body like a fast moving dumpster.

That statement really brings us back to the two main points. Food is fuel. You are putting food in your body to fuel training and races. Ninety percent of the time, I eat right on my meal plan and exactly meet my caloric requirement with healthy, nutritious, and tasty meals. But on race day, my brain turns into a cranky toddler and I give it whatever I can choke down.

Running and the deficit:

While I don’t like talking running for weight loss, I know some of you are doing it, so I would be remiss if I left it out. Running can be a good weight loss tool. But running is just that, a single tool in your arsenal. You will get the most results from cutting calories.

Unfortunately, for most people, this means your training will take a hit. You will be tired, hungry, and cranky. You will have a hard time running as fast or as far as you would like because your body will be telling you to stop, have a donut, and take a nap. So, if you intend to lose weight and continue run, you need to accept that limitations inherent in it. You should also understand that sustainable weight loss takes time. It took me a year to lose 50lbs at a sustainable rate and I was tired and hungry most of the time. Was it worth it? Absolutely! After just the first 10lbs lost, I was already running faster. At 30lbs lost I was hitting new PRs. But it was a long, uncomfortable road, and I had to learn to suck it up and keep going.

Over the last ten years I’ve run through thick and thin but I’m finally finding the best balance of the two.

I hope this helped at least pull back the curtain for a peek into the vast amount of info that goes into running nutrition. One of my next articles will give an in-depth look at how I find balance in my desired race weight; it’s a fine line between “light and speedy” and “enough strength to finish.”

Again, I’m not an expert and most of this is based on my own personal experience. If its within your means, I highly encourage you to seek a professional to help set good macros for you based on your running and nutritional goals. If it’s not, there are a plethora of resources available on the Internet. Just be mindful that some are better researched than others and “bro science” isn’t real science. Good luck!


Happy trails!


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Confessions from the Trail: Close Encounters of the Critter Kind!

I’ll confess that I have about 1,000 1800(!) words on nutrition that I was going to post today but I’m allowing the Twitter crowd to sway me and I’ll be posting about critter encounters instead. Which mostly means I’m digging up photos from cool hikes/runs that never were because some form of critter turns us back early or altered our route. This might also serve as a good segue into the nutrition post later as you will see I used to be much, much heavier.

As many of you know or have surmised, I’ve been doing endurance sports for a while. A long while! I completed my first Ironman 70.3 in 2010 which means it’s been a solid decade. Before that, I ran track and cross country in middle and high school. So, I’ve got a few years worth of critter encounters from which I can pull, but we’ll keep it to the more recent encounters. (And not all of them will be critters!)

First up, your rather run of the mill dog encounters. Easy to escape from them on a bike… not so much while running. Especially when you’re clumsy and trip on a sidewalk in your haste. Oops.

I spun out many hundreds of miles in the hinterlands of Alabama where farm dogs were pretty constant. I just learned which were the aggressive dogs and which had good fences.

Inside city limits, where I ran, it was a crapshoot every day, hence the bloodied knees.

Some days you win, some days the dog wins, and some days you eat pavement regardless

Getting a little more exotic, during a trip to Alaska we had close encounters with moose and bears. See my frustration that we not only got turned off our trail but I didn’t even get a picture of the big bugger because we were beating a hasty retreat.

Then there was a bear on the trail from lower Exit Glacier up to Marmot Meadows. My partner in crime managed to snap a photo of me just as our Ranger guide got the call about the bear and we got turned around. Probably good we did, I ended up in some – uhhm – gastric distress later in the day and a planned 8 hour hike would have been horrible if we’d gone through with it!

Chased off by a moose and halted by a Ranger who was more cognizant of bears than we were

Training for my fourth and fifth half Ironman’s was a trip and a half as I had encounters during training and on the course. Due to the shift I worked at the time and my location (hot desert in summer) I was doing a lot of riding at night (check those sweet clear lenses!) which meant I got lost as often as not. Fortunately, I had reflective tape all over my bike and blinking lights which made me look like a one woman UFO, not a terrorist… It also meant that when I accidentally turned towards a DoD weapons depot one night, the cops briefly detained me and didn’t open fire. I guess they figured anyone who was announcing their presence so openly probably wasn’t trying to break in.

Another ride that training cycle (haha, geddit??) I was lucky enough to be riding in daylight and came across two cows that had escaped their pasture. A quick call to the local sheriff’s office and they dispatched two deputies to get them penned back up.

Finally, race day. Some poor unfortunate bass got mowed over by the 100 or so swimmers ahead of me and I had the misfortune of hitting it mid-stroke on the swim. I almost levitated from the water and Jesus-ran my way off the swim course. My partner, of course, tells it that I set a new PR (I did) and won a bass tournament (I didn’t) in the same race.

Goofy enough to not get shot. Civic minded enough to call cops on the cows. And despite the rumors, I did not win a bass fishing tournament that day.

Not all my encounters are on the road or trail, sometimes I find little friends in my gear. I save this photo as a reminder why good nutrition is so important, something I’ll hit in the next post.

Sorry, Kermit, my cycling gear is not a good place to hang out.

Finally, and probably my personal favorite encounter, was not even a critter but definitely had us asking “What kind of tracks are those?” While trail running at the edges of a military base in Poland, we found tracks… train tracks and tank tracks. The train tracks were unused but my running partner and I elected not to stick around to see how fresh the tank tracks were!

Trail running around Warsaw is beautiful, just watch out for the tanks!

Now I contend with run of the mill critter encounters: spiders, dogs, snakes, and the occasional black bear.


Happy trails!


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Born, Not Bitten (Part 11)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


Chuck watched with only a mild sense of disquiet as Summer spun into a fury.

“Liar!” Summer shrieked and launched herself at the bound woman, hands shifting to claws.

In a blur of movement he intercepted her, slamming into her and throwing her against the potting shed’s rough hewn walls.

“No, Summer!” Chuck growled as he pressed her into the wall.

Summer thrashed and screamed in rage. Her angry screams bordered on a yowl as she thrashed futilely against him.

Chuck decided she wasn’t going to come back to her senses quickly and hauled her up over his shoulder. He strode out the potting shed’s rolling door, one arm clamped firmly on her bottom to keep her from squirming off his shoulder. Once outside, he unceremoniously dumped her onto the soft grass.

“God damn it!” she raged.

“Summer, cool it.”

“That bitch is a fucking liar!” She rolled to her belly and pushed herself to her feet in a single move.

Chuck’s eyebrows raised as he realized that hauling her over his shoulder had been because she had allowed it, not because of his superior strength.

“She’s not,” he told her. His voice was as calm and smooth as the breeze over a spring fed pond.

“My father’s dead,” Summer spat and dusted herself off with human hands.

“Summer, I told you when we first met, your father is alive.”

Summer shook her head. “You know, I told myself that lie a thousand times as a kid. ‘My father is alive.’ Or ‘He survived the crash.’ Maybe even ‘He’ll come back one day to get me. I can get away from the pack and live a normal human life.’” She shook her head again.

“Summer. Summer,” he said louder when she wouldn’t look at him. “He is alive.”

Her eyes closed and she shook her head.

“He’s alive and he’s the Alpha of the feral pack.”

Summer opened her mouth to refute him.

Nothing came out.

She inhaled again and still nothing came out. Her eyes flicked up to his.

Hazel eyes met blue and Chuck felt like he was watching her entire world shatter. Tears welled up on her eyes as she silently shook her head.

Chuck had seen a few, very few, women who could cry and still look lovely. Summer was not one of them. Tears streamed down her cheeks and she made ragged choked sounds. She sniffled loudly and wiped at her nose with the back of her hand as she sobbed. Not caring that it was probably snot she was wiping, he pulled her into an embrace. He held her close, rubbing her back, and making soothing sounds as she sobbed.

A few moments later she had calmed back down and dried her tears. A wet patch on the breast of his shirt and the pink of her nose where the only evidence of Summer’s breakdown.

“Ready to face this?” Chuck asked quietly.

“Ready? No. Will I? Yes.” She straightened her now rumpled and stained white blouse. “I’ll release them both. Two messengers will ensure the message gets through.”

“Planning to tell the pack the man isn’t dead?”

Summer shrugged. “They’ll figure it out.” She stepped back out of his embrace and scrubbed her face.

Chuck watched her transform in that moment. As her hands came away from her face, her shoulders dropped and her chest lifted. Whatever traces of fear, anguish, or confusion that may have been there a moment before was wiped away, replaced by a visage that radiated a quiet power. That same subtle power was etched in her posture. He could see the wolf within poised to strike.

He followed her, watching her stride lithely to the potting shed door and Chuck was struck by what she had told him about being a born werewolf.

I’m a werewolf,” she had told him firmly. “When I’m shaped like a wolf, I’m a werewolf. When I’m shaped like a woman, I’m still a werewolf. There’s no choosing a side. I am what I am, regardless of what shape I’m in or how I live my life.”

He could finally see it now, in her stride. She may be dressed like a common office worker, her business clothes torn and bloodied, but clad undeniably as an office worker. But her firm, lissome, but small body radiated subtle power from every inch of her, screaming her predator side.

“Summer?” he asked quietly.

She paused, a hand on the frame of the shed’s door, and looked back at him.

“I’m behind you,” he said simply and bowed his head.

She gave him the barest smile before wiping her face blank and lifting her chin.

Summer grabbed the now empty chair where the male feral had sat, twirled it around, and sat down backward, legs straddling the seat in a way that hiked her loose skirt to her knees, and arms resting across the back. Every eye in the shed followed her, noting her rigid posture, and raised chin.

“Tomorrow, at sundown,” Summer said to the woman, still bound and on the ground. “Tell him I will meet him at Blackwater River. The boat launch in the state park.”

The feral woman nodded, eyes too bright as they took her in.

“No,” came a voice from beside her.

Summer exploded from the chair and whirled to face Dittany. An inhuman growl rumbled low in her throat and Chuck wasn’t the only one to take a step back.

“You don’t speak for the Asteraceae Pack; you cannot set a parlay.” Dittany’s voice was steady but there was a tightness in her eyes as she spoke.

“I don’t?” Summer’s eyebrows shot up. “Am I not here to end this? Am I not the speaker for this Pack right now?” Her voice was equally steady but held as much threat as her rigid stance.

“You are not. You–”

“Ladies,” Chuck broke in, “outside, perhaps?” He jerked his head towards the feral woman listening avidly from the floor.

“Everyone, out!” Summer snapped.

The shed cleared out, people flooding out to the darkened lawn, and Summer rolled the door closed with a thud. She walked to the middle of the small crowd and faced Dittany. Chuck took up a position to her right.

“You do not speak for this Pack, Summer Dawn Jones. The Elders will confer and decide how to proceed,” Dittany told her.

“The Elders? Oh, you mean the remaining Elders? The ones not currently injured or kidnapped, right Auntie Dittany?” Summer’s voice was cold. The dew now forming on the grassy square could have frozen at her words.

“Summer,” Dittany said warningly.

“No,” Summer spat. “No, Dittany. You called me here for a reason and I’m starting to suspect it isn’t just because you know I’m willing to do the violence you will not.”

A flutter of fear crossed Dittany’s weathered face. “No, Summer. Not here.”

“No? Not here? Not were people can hear?” Summer gestured to the growing crowd, drawn by their harsh words. “What’s wrong, Auntie? Are you afraid they’ll find out?”

“Summer,” Dittany shook her head. “Don’t.”

Summer exploded. “No! You knew! You’ve always known, haven’t you?” She took a step towards Dittany.

“You did as I asked, but now this is an issue for the Pack.”

“Oh? And what am I, Dittany?”

Silence filled the open space.

Summer pressed a step closer. “What am I, Dittany? A friend? An inconvenience?” Her voice rose a notch. “Am I not Pack?”

A long silence stretched between them as more people, drawn by Summer’s shout, crowded in.

“Am I not Pack, Dittany? Or is that what this is about? What it’s really about?” Summer took yet another step toward Dittany who backed up. “I’m just violent enough to be useful, but you know what I’ve done and you won’t claim me. Just a tool, huh, Auntie?” She sneered the term. “It’s all about what I am to you.”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, child.” Dittany shook her head warningly again. “You don’t speak for us. We won’t condone your violence.”

“You called me for a reason. You begged me. Begged. You allowed my violence because you needed it. You asked for this,” she said, punctuating each word with a stabbing finger towards Dittany. “And my work isn’t done. Until it is, you don’t get a say.”

Summer crossed her arms and regarded Dittany.

The assembled crowd, larger than had been in the Pack House shifted restlessly. Chuck saw younger faces than those in the Pack House. This was almost every adult in the pack.

A younger man, blood smeared across his sleeve, stepped out of the crowd, and stood behind Summer, mirroring Chuck, on her left.

“You know what you asked for, Dittany,” Summer said, her voice ringing across the darkened green.

Dittany shook her head as another man moved to stand behind Summer. “You don’t know the whole story, girl.”

“Tell me. Tell me why you would lie to me about my father being alive.” Summer tilted her head and eyed the shifting crowd.

“Not here,” Dittany shook her head, eyes full of sorrow. “Not now. It’s for your own good.”

“My father, who is now a feral? You didn’t think that was important to tell me before asking me to come stop an attack on my family? My home?”

“Summer,” Dittany whispered, “don’t do this.”

More werewolves moved behind Summer, facing Dittany. A few stood behind Dittany, mostly the remaining Elders.

Summer uncrossed her arms and addressed the crowd. “She brought me here to protect you. She won’t lift a paw or bloody a tooth to save her own family, but she is willing to call someone who will.” She turned back to Dittany but spoke to the whole crown. “And now you keep secrets ‘for my own good’?”

Summer stood straight and tall, far taller than her diminutive 5’3”, radiating an unseen power. She looked at the crowd and Chuck could see realization dawning in her eyes.

“Do you want Elders who won’t act or someone who will end a threat?”

Uncle Mullein walked slowly away from Dittany to stand by Summer’s left. “We stand with you,” he told her, voice creaking with age, but hard as cured oak.

A cheer rose from the assembled werewolves.

“Send the messengers. We parlay tomorrow at sundown.”

Another cheer rose and echoed across the lawn, bouncing off the ring of cabins that was the pack’s homestead.

The decision made, the group broke, people heading for their own beds.

Chuck stepped in close, leaning in so those dispersing couldn’t hear. “Pack Mistress,” Chuck whispered.


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

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Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Born, Not Bitten (Part 10)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


Sometime between when she had issued her first command and now, the pack had discovered one last feral. The woman had been discovered, caught, and thrown in the potting shed, but in their rush, no one had bothered to tell Summer. She strode into the potting shed wearing a loosely flowing skirt, borrowed tank top, and no bra after she had destroyed her own tearing it off. Her damp hair still clinging to her neck from her hasty shower and it stayed put when Summer jerked in surprise when she spotted the woman.

“Who the fuck is that?” she asked as soon as she threw open the rolling door to the potting shed with Chuck on her heels.

“We found her lurking at the edge of the homestead,” Mullein told her.

Summer frowned down at the bound and gagged woman. She was sprawled beside and slightly on top of the male feral Summer had captured. Something in her pert nose reminded Summer of her Auntie Rose.

Rage flared in Summer. Blinding, pure hatred for this woman and everything she stood for rose up into her throat with the sharp tang of bile.

“Kill her,” she said bluntly.

The woman’s duct tape muffled howls punctuated the silence that followed Summer’s statement.

“Summer,” Chuck whispered, his hand lightly clasping her elbow and fingers brushing the fabric at the waist of her borrow top. “She’s a valuable hostage.”

Summer quivered with barely controlled rage and stared the woman down. Pain and hate boring holes through her skull.

“Keep her. Make her watch the interrogation, then let her loose to be a messenger,” Chuck whispered hastily and tugged firmly on Summer’s elbow. “Don’t do this. Not now. Wait.”

With a frown, Summer nodded. “You know him?” she asked the woman and let her gaze go to the bound man.

There was a muffled, unintelligible grunt, but the woman nodded.

“Then, you have to watch.” Summer stepped closer to the pair, breaking Chuck’s lose grasp on her arm, and grabbed the woman’s wrists. In a display of raw strength that caught more than Chuck off guard, Summer hauled the woman completely upright in one tug. Summer looked her in the eyes then dropped her back to the hard-packed dirt floor of the potting shed. She stepped back, dusting her hands, and acting like she didn’t just haul a full-grown woman completely off the ground one handed.

“Are the pups in bed?” Summer asked the few people gathered around the shed’s open door. “It’s almost midnight, I assume they’re in bed now,” she said, checking her watch.

“Yes, Summer,” Mullein told her quickly.

“Good.” Summer brushed a few damp strands of chocolate hair back over her shoulder. “Set two chairs in here, one against each wall, and facing each other,” she directed. “Keep their hands bound. And bind them to their respective chairs, but make sure they can see each other.”

“Ok,” Mullein said, hesitation etched across his body.

“Unca,” Summer said. “Mull,” she said sharply when he didn’t move.

“Yes, ma’am,” he mumbled and left.

“Everyone else can get the fuck out,” Summer told the remaining folks, mostly Elders.

“We’re staying for this, girl,” Dittany said harshly.

Summer whirled sharply and faced down her Auntie. “Yeah? You’re staying to watch me torture information out of them? You? The Elders who couldn’t be bothered to lift a paw to help themselves, but you were willing to call me. You raised me yourself, Auntie Dee. You know what’s needs to happen now.” She frowned. “What has to happen now.”

The two women glared at one another.

“You know what you asked for, Dee,” Summer reminded her again, her shoulders set in a firm line and turned away from the older woman. “You know what I’m capable of and you knew what you were asking me to do.”

“Summer–”

“No, Dee,” Summer cut her off. “Get the fuck out and let me do this.” She threw up her hands in anger the whirled to face Dittany again. “It’s what you wanted after all.”

Dittany’s mouth opened in her lined face, but she closed it again.

Summer, taking that as tacit permission again, turned away, and stared down at the two captives. Mullein stepped forward and started setting each of the bound ferals in the two chairs.

Summer tapped Chuck lightly on the arm and jerked her head towards the rolling door. He took her cue and followed her out into the night.

“Got a knife?” Summer asked him.

He handed her a palm sized folding utility knife with a texturized black plastic handle. “Slitting throats?” he asked lightly.

“That’s not my primary plan, but it’s good for show.” She tucked the knife into her pocket.

“Why did you spare her?”

Summer’s eyebrows rose. “You don’t believe I saved her because you asked? Fine, why did you ask me to spare her?”

Chuck shifted uneasily. “I, uhh, I spared her because she’s a woman.

“What? You saved her because she’s a pretty face? Geez, Chuck! Stereotypical much?”

“Fine, why did you listen to me?” Chuck said in a huff.

“Other than she’ll make a good messenger to send what I want back to her pack? They found her lurking; she didn’t fight hard. Probably didn’t hurt anyone,” she said, voice trailing off. Summer gave him a quick glance and a half smile. “Besides, she’s pretty. I hate to rob the world of beauty.”

“Liar.”

“It’s true.”

Chuck gave her a stern look. “And I’m supposed to believe you like women?”

“Oh, like you’re straight?” Summer said with a rich laugh. “Weren’t you talking about all those men attracted to you on the ride out?”

“Wait, you aren’t?” Chuck’s voice held the disbelief that was palpable on his face.

“No. I don’t think so. I dunno, I guess I liked who I liked and never gave it much thought.”

There was a pause as they eyed one another.

“Ok, but seriously, you saved her because she’s pretty?” Summer frowned at him. “And me?” She quirked an eyebrow. “Am I only alive because I shifted naked in front of you?”

“No!” Chuck’s quick exclamation was punctuated by him taking a step closer to her. “Yes. It’s that, but it’s also that you could do it during a new moon.”

Summer frowned.

“Look, I didn’t lie. Your pelt is worth a lot to a lot of people.” He ran a hand through his rich, dark hair. “But I figured you had something I hadn’t seen before. And even if you weren’t what I’d been led to believe, it was worth it to keep you alive.”

“Just business, huh, Chuck?” she asked coldly.

“No, damn it,” he said in frustration. “Maybe it was. But I’ve been,” he hesitated, “aware of you for several months. I’ve been researching you. Tracking you. After a week, there was no way I could kill you. Even if you had actually been a feral werewolf,” he said in a rush.

“Why, Chuck?” Summer asked quietly. She met his eyes.

“You know why.” Chuck’s eyes blazed with a quiet intensity. They held the same kind of silent thunder that she’d felt when she had promised to answer three questions.

Summer opened her mouth to respond but was halted by Mullein exiting the shed.

“They’re ready now, ma’am.”

Summer’s mouth pressed into a firm line and she didn’t take her eyes from Chuck. “Thank you, Mull. Thank you very much,” she ground out.

Summer took a step towards the shed, but Chuck snagged her arm, halting her.

He shifted his grip to take her hand. “There’s a reason I believed in you,” he said hastily. His hand gave a quick tug and his mouth met hers.

Summer allowed herself to be caught up in the sweet firmness of the kiss for only a moment before gently pushing him back. “Now? I’ve still got people stuck in my teeth and you kiss me now?” She searched his face.

He gave a half shrug and a mischievous grin. “Decades at war? Let’s just say I like my women wild.”

Summer rolled her eyes in exasperation, but had to suppress a grin.

The strode into the potting shed together.


An hour later, they had turned from their male captive to the woman. Summer had hoped that interrogating the male feral in front of her would have proved good punctuation on the message she had wanted to send, but he had folded harder than the chair upon which he sat.

Just being threatened with violence had caused him to wet himself and the smell of piss had punctuated the interrogation from the start. Just one flash of Summer’s borrowed knife had made him quiver in fear and answer every question she’d asked.

According to him, his Alpha was a middle-aged man who had been a werewolf longer than him. Given that the former tax accountant had still been dutifully crunching numbers when Chuck had kidnapped Summer less than a month ago, this pronouncement didn’t hold much weight with Summer. Within the hour, Summer had dismissed him as nothing more than a delusional sycophant who would be dead in another week without her intervention. He had given up the size of the group, twenty-four after the losses from tonight’s raid. (And he seemed to include himself and his fellow captive in this loss.) He had stated that the group’s goal was to scare Summer’s pack enough to move into their territory without a huge fight or loss of life. Apparently, the Alpha considered Summer’s pack to be a group of weaklings who would be unwilling to fight him over the incursion. Privately, Summer didn’t disagree.

“He’s worthless,” she told Chuck. “Take him out back and kill him.” She snagged Chuck’s arm as he stepped forward and leaned in to whisper: “Make it sound awful. Leave him for a bit, at least.”

“Will you kill him?”

“Maybe. Not sure yet.”

It would be better if even Chuck didn’t know if she’d kill the man. If she did, then when she turned the woman loose, she told a story of Summer’s ruthlessness. If the woman turned out to be unredeemable, someone Summer couldn’t even trust to carry a message without risk she’d harm others, then she had a spare messenger.

Chuck gave her a hard look, but hauled the man off, sliding the door shut and forcing the crowd inside without another word. Within moments, there were the sounds of something hard striking something soft. A grunt of pain followed the soft whumping noises.

Summer kept her chin held high and ignored the sounds as well as the decreasing moans of pain. The small crowd shuffled uneasily. Summer suppressed a smirk. This only reinforced that they hated what she was doing but recognized the need and wouldn’t stop her from doing it. Summer shivered slightly in the her borrowed clothes.

Chuck slid the door open with a bang. The assembled crowd jumped as one, all except Summer, who had expected it as soon as the man’s groans had faded.

“Done?” she asked, voice and face expressionless. Almost bored.

“I did as you asked,” Chuck ground out sullenly.

Summer turned to the woman, still bound to her chair, and she looked at her. She really looked at her for the first time. When she had first seen her sprawled on the floor, Summer had assumed she was older. Her hair was thin and damaged, hanging in lank strands around her face. Her cheeks had a sunken, hollow look and her skin pock marked. The woman’s face was also flushed, her breathing rapid, and her eyes were glazed in her sweaty face. Summer hadn’t known a lot of people who used narcotics, since the Aunties and Uncles preferred weed, but she knew the symptoms of withdrawal.

“What were you on?” Summer asked gently.

If Chuck was surprised to see her change in tone, he didn’t let on.

“Heroine,” the woman whimpered and licked her cracked lips. “Sometimes meth.”

“Did you get bitten to get more?”

“No. Yeah.” The woman shook her head. “Kind of?”

Summer stayed quiet, letting an uncomfortable silence stretch between them.

“I slept around—” the woman stared but hesitated. “The guys I’d see,” she licked her lips again and Summer could see the ravages of meth behind her cracked lips, “they’d give me stuff. You know, for the sex. It was easy. ‘Specially when I was stung out. Who gives a shit who puts what and where when you’re strung out, right?”

Summer nodded, not in agreement, but in the acknowledgment that she’d heard what the woman said.

“One of my men, he said he could make me stronger. I could kick this habit and be stronger than the drugs. Just had to bite me,” she let her voice trail off for a moment as she squirmed against her bonds. “So, I let him bite me. I thought it was some kinky kind thing and I could use it to get more meth. Well, I done woke up a week later and I was furry as a god damn dog! Fucker’d made me a werewolf.”

“Then what?” Summer asked. She glanced sideways at Chuck.

“Dunno. When I was a wolf, I ran. When I was a person, they let me be strung out.” She shook her head, greasy hair shuffling around her face. “Ain’t got no idea what I done the last three months. I’ve been more fuck up and strung out than any drug I ever injected in my shit. No idea who’s got my kids or where the fuck I am.”

Tears started forming at the corners of her eyes, but Summer couldn’t tell if it was shame or the withdrawal.

“You seem in good shape for someone under the influence,” Summer stated quietly.

“It’s the god damn bite, they tell me. It keeps me healthy. I don’t look like I did before because the bite, but I still fucking want the drugs. It doesn’t go away,” she whined. “It never fuckin’ goes away!”

Summer took in the woman’s haggard appearance, horrified that the woman considered it healthy compared to before.

“Does it help when you shift? When you’re a wolf?”

“Yeah, but that’s only a few days a month. Even tonight I thought they was crazy because they wanted us to shift as much as we could. Hurt like hell and all I got was claws. I hid. I didn’t want this.”

Summer shot a quick glance at Chuck. “You can’t shift when it’s not the days around the full moon?”

“No. Of course not!” The calm she seemed to have gained over the last few minutes slipped.

“I can.”

“You can shift during a new moon,” the captive panted. “Tell me how. Tell me now!” Her drug-addled wailed echoed in the tiny shack.

“If you’d been born this way, you could do it too if you hadn’t been bitten, you poor dumb bitch.”

“Summer!” Chuck’s voice cracked through the small shed like a whip.

“What? She’s a female wolf, even if she’s only bitten, she’s a bitch. As am I,” Summer added as an afterthought.

“Summer,” Chuck said warningly.

“Walk with me,” she told him. “Keep her tied up. I’ll be back,” she told the few people in the shed.

She and Chuck strode from the shed.

“Him?” She asked quietly.

“Knocked out,” Chuck replied.

He paused, lifting his elbow slightly. Summer took it and Chuck strode forward.

“What are you playing at?” he asked, curiosity infusing his voice.

Summer could feel a tension in his arm as they strolled the homestead’s interior gravel path. “They want me to be something beyond them. They assume that because I was capable of that level of violence once, I am easily turned to it again,” she said quietly.

“And are you?”

Summer jerked, startled. “No. No, of course I’m not. I mean,” she paused, “part of me wants to beat this bitch to a pulp. I want to tear her limb from limb. A quiet part of me, a very wild part, wonders how good it would feel to have the kidnapper’s entrails clenched in my hands,” she shuddered. “But I’m not going to physically tear her apart.” Summer shuddered. “I mean, you didn’t hear all of it. She’s pathetic. Strung out on drugs and not totally aware of what she’s doing.”

“She hurt your people,” Chuck told her.

“She lurked on the edges, you even told me that. She isn’t a killer.” Summer frowned. “And I won’t be one just because they asked.”

“What will that do to your relationship with them?”

Chuck had articulated a question Summer had feared. “What do you mean?” her voice rose an octave when she asked.

“What happened when they realize you aren’t the killer they assumed you where?”

A long silence followed, punctuated only by the grinding of gravel under their feet. “Nothing,” Summer finally said. “Nothing changes what I’ve done. Or,” she said, considering, “who I really am.”

Chuck nodded and continued their loop around the homestead.

“And when tonight is over, then what?”

“I go back to my life.”

“You earned their respect and more than a few followers,” he told her. There was an odd note in his voice. “I would guess that more than a few of your packmates would support a change in leadership here.”

Summer shook her head sharply. “I don’t want it. Any of it.”

“Curious,” Chuck murmured quietly. His rich voice was pitched low, as not to carry, and it made Summer shiver.

“What’s curious?”

“You aren’t what I expected,” he told Summer.

“What do you mean?”

Chuck gave an enigmatic smile. Something shot through Summer. A memory of their kiss lanced through her.

“Chuck!” summer admonished.

He shook his head with a half grin.

“And who are you, Chuck? The charmer or the gray man? Seducer or supplicant?”

“I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. Am I the man or the monster?” He looked down at the arm she held. “Who are any of us?”

Summer’s eyes followed, noting his freshly bruised knuckles. Probably bruise when he beat the male prisoner.

Their loop ended there, the doors to the potting shed open before them.

“Are you ready for what’s next?” Summer asked.

“I am. Are you?”

Something in his tone made her hesitate. She wanted to snap something witty, call out the inherent sexism of his question, but something in his tone stopped her.

“Yes.” Summer stepped through the door, Chuck almost silently on her heels. “Tell me about your pack,” she commanded the feral woman.

A half hour later, they had little more information to show for their efforts. The feral pack was headed to Baker, which they already knew. They were specifically targeting the Asteraceae Pack, Summer’s pack, which they also knew. And her pack also wanted the Asteraceae Pack’s land, people, and specifically Summer, who is to be unharmed to the point of offering one’s life for her unharmed state.

That explained why the ferals seemed so easy to kill and why they were willing to attack on a night when most, if not all, were unable to shift completely.

“Why are they looking for me?” Summer asked the woman.

The feral woman gave a lopsided grin, showing her meth ravaged teeth. Her withdrawal symptoms had her wavering between the here and now and a pain riddle reality Summer couldn’t follow.

“Why me?” Summer growled.

The woman flinched but seemed to keep drifting in and out of her own reality.

Chuck clasped her arms and looked deep into the woman’s eyes. His voice came out in a deep, almost hypnotic roll. “Why are you seeking this woman?”

When he stepped back, the feral woman’s eyes were locked on Chuck. He nodded once. “Why?”

The woman’s eyes, now too bright and fevered, stayed locked on Chuck, but she strained against her bonds, straining towards Summer.

“She’s the Pack Master’s daughter,” the feral whispered.


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Confessions from the Trail: Training


The next question I’ll tackle is about training. I got a lot of questions about it on Twitter and felt it deserved more than 280 characters could give.

How long does it take to prepare?

I’ll give the answer heard most in my old job: “It depends.” Honestly, this can be answered in several ways. How long does it take a professional? Not long. Most of them already run a large volume of base miles and can do a short ramp-up, taper down, then go race. How long does it take me? For-ev-er!

I like to compartmentalize and think of all my training (Ironman, trail running, bodybuilding, etc.) as “seasons.” Each season, I pick my “A” race: the one big event I know I want to complete. Then I build a schedule to get my training from here to there. This “season,” my A race is the Bataan Memorial Death March at the end of March. For Bataan, from my current level of fitness, I probably only need four to five months of training. That said, it’s August and I have eight months until I race Bataan. Why am I starting now? I haven’t been serious about a trail race in a while. I farted through MS50 as a 20k this past March after running the NOLA half in February. I had trained almost 100% on roads and paid for it dearly come race day for MS50. Now I live in a location where I have trails very close by and can devote time to running them without spending more time getting to the trail than I do on the trail.

Do you use a coach?

I’ve used coaches for triathlons and bodybuilding. Early on, I self-coached for Ironman 70.3 Orlando twice and missed my goal time, finishing two to ten minutes off my goal. I hired a coach for Ironman 70.3’s Galveston, Augusta, and Chattanooga. I was ten minutes faster than my goal at Galveston and blew an incredible seventy minutes and seventy-five minutes, respectively, off that goal for Augusta and Chattanooga. Clearly, the coach was worth it. Same for bodybuilding, I didn’t know enough about the sport to self-coach, so I hired one.

But when it comes to straight running races, I’ve never used a coach specifically for running. I’ve run for a long time. I know my body, I know my capability. I’ve had some races that are concurrent with Ironman spin up or while I was in prep for bodybuilding. But at those times, running wasn’t my focus, I was already fit and conditioned, I just ran them. This spring, I was in an offseason, no coach for any sport, and made my own training plan for MS50 and the NOLA half. I built the plan based on my experiences before, knowing how much I can push my body, and what was a reasonable expectation. It was a gamble, but it paid off. I set a new PR for myself on MS50 by three minutes and a half PR by almost five minutes.

I’m going into this season on my own plan, built around my own capabilities, and my own experience.

“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.” – Indiana Jones, ultramarathon training guru

How long do I train? Do you do cross-training? Are you still weight lifting?

A lot, yes, and yes!

As you can see from my training plan, I start the season with no more than about ten to eleven miles per week and slowly ramp up to thirty to forty miles a week. This all translates into three to ten hours a week of running/hiking and about 5 hours of weightlifting. Every fifth week I dial everything back to give my body a break and reset for the next round. Across the top, it shows what days I lift and which muscle groups. I’m working to keep a balance of muscle and endurance building, but it’s tough. Excessive cardio negatively impacts muscle growth; I’m not actually aiming for a “fast” time on the course, I aim to finish. So, I feel like I can keep up with lifting five days a week, running four, walking one, and biking one.

Why the weird spread?

Monday’s run forces me to run on tired legs, simulating how I’ll feel late in the race.

Tuesday’s walk gets miles on my feet without pounding my joints and pairs with a relatively intense lifting day.

On Wednesday my sole focus is leg day in the gym and I have no cardio. Not really a break, but I can keep focused on some muscle growth and building the posterior chain (crucial to hill climbs and filling out a bikini).

Thursday’s bike follows leg day and helps spin off any lingering soreness.

Friday is my upper body strength day paired with a trail run and it’s a bear. I add in a little wine and pizza afterward, which makes it survivable though!

Saturday is a short and easy run on the treadmill to warm up for leg day number two.

Sunday is my long, slow, duration run on the trail. I also tend to go out paddleboarding with the family in the morning, but I suspect that will taper off as the weather cools down and miles ramp up.

Paddleboarding, a great way to relax and crosstrain

What do you eat?

Wow, that’s a long one. In fact, what I eat during the season, during a long run, and on race day is its own full post, which I intend to tackle next. Stay tuned and see if you really can outrun the fork or if it’s better to track your nutrition. (I bet you can guess based on my visible abs!)

Next time we’ll talk about abs and the endurance athlete

Happy trails!


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Born, Not Bitten (Part 9)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


Despite it’s elderly, Bondo and Rust-Oleum covered exterior, the beater’s engine was in prime condition. Summer suspected, it also was not original to the car’s frame. When Chuck pressed the accelerator, the car moved.

Summer was pushed back into the decrepit and fading blue fabric of Chuck’s car as he accelerated back towards the Pack’s homestead. She clutched the half-torn “oh shit” strap over the door frame and tried not to envision the worst.

Aunt Dittany’s words had been concise: “Attacked. Rose kidnapped. Help us. Please.”

There had been something in the way Dittany’s voice had hitched when she said please. An acknowledgment. She had known Summer almost her entire life. She knew what Chuck was. There had been tacit permission in that “please.”

That tacit acknowledgement more than anything else chilled Summer.

“Chuck, what if–”

“No, Summer.”

“But–” she tried to start again and was cut off.

“No. We don’t give the ‘what ifs’ a voice.” He shook his head as he accelerated even more into a turn. “What do you know? Start from there and we’ll build a plan based on what we know, not what we fear.”

Chuck’s voice was as steady and smooth as marble. It was also as cold as marble in the depths of winter.

“I know,” she told him, “that the feral pack attacked not long after we left. Minutes.” Her throat tightened. She swallowed hard once then cleared her throat. “Auntie Rose has been kidnapped.”

“What is she to you? Family? Elder? Parent? Blood relation?” The words seemed to snap out of him.

“Pack Elder,” she told him.

“What does that mean?”

“We don’t have an Alpha. We have Elders. The oldest and most influential in the pack. They work as a collective to make and enforce rules in the pack. I mean, not like they’re hardasses or anything. They mostly sit around smoking weed and chatting.”

“Does she hold any extra sway in the group?”

“No. She’s old. That’s all. The oldest Elder, I think. I don’t know! We aren’t that formal.”

“Ok, the ferals must know and have assumed that being ‘oldest of the Elders’ makes you someone special. They took her specifically to send a message. Unless she holds any special meaning to you?”

Summer could feel Chuck dart a glance at her but kept her eyes on the road as is passed in a rush of roaring horsepower. “She’s kind to me. But, she’s the same as the rest of them. Auntie Dittany was the one who mostly raised me. Her and Saffron when Auntie Dee was on the outs with Uncle Mull.”

“So, not really a parental figure.”

Another statement, not a question. Summer nodded.

“Ok. They waited specifically until we were gone. They took the eldest Elder but not the one who raised you.” He veered hard around another corner, throwing them both against their seatbelts. “They’re sending a message, but what?” The words were snapping out of him again.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could see a young man calling into a radio for help, snapping out precise coordinates as he pressed a blood-soaked cloth to a wound. Although his voice snapped, she realized it was from a lifetime of pulling critical information under life and death circumstances. The realization allowed her a measure of calm.

“They don’t want to face you and me, but they take what they assume is their Alpha equivalent?”

Chuck nodded. “Yes, I’d buy that. They’re afraid of our strength, or they would have just attacked outright. They want us to know they see us, but don’t want to fight us directly.”

Summer inhaled sharply. “They want to parley.”

There was a moment of silence broken only by four hundred horses racing under a battered sheet of Detroit steel.

“They want to parley,” Chuck finally agreed. His shoulder dropped a fraction of an inch. “So, we take the fight to them. They’ve got Rose, but they’ll have left ‘emissaries’ we’re supposed to encounter who will direct us to their Alpha to talk.”

Summer watched his hand flex on the wheel. As they had driven out, he’d rolled his sleeves to the elbow, no longer caring what the pack saw, exposing his forearms. Those well-muscled forearms corded as he gripped the wheel. Summer held back a sigh.

“Are you willing to talk to them?” Chuck asked her, his voice still smooth as marble.

Summer felt something in her harden. “No.”

His voice dropped into a low, heated whisper. “What are you willing to do, Summer?”

She thought of Dittany’s “Please.” The something that had hardened in her broke and melted. “What I have to do,” she told him.

“Then what? It’s your pack; you decide how we play this.” Chuck stomped the brake and cranked the steering wheel, drifting them into the long gravel driveway to the Pack’s homestead. A spray of gravel and dust was lost to the night.

“We end them. Leave the bodies where they can be seen. That’s the message.” Summer’s voice hardened to steel. “You fuck with my family and I’m coming for you.”

“And your family? Do you care how they’ll react?” Chuck asked over the pop and crunch of gravel.

Help us. Please.

Summer gave a low growl, strange in a human throat. “No. They didn’t lift a paw to help themselves and they don’t get a say in how the mess gets cleaned up.” Somewhere deep in the back of her mind, an urge or run, rip flesh, and lap at blood tugged at her. The wolf she denied to Chuck paced the edges of her human consciousness.

“It’s not a full moon, you gonna have enough power to do this?” Chuck asked as they skidded to a halt in the driveway.

Summer glared at him for a half a moment then flung herself out the door, ripping her business clothes off as she ran. “Clear the pups,” she called out to the stunned crowd. “Everyone inside and if you see someone not of this pack, you point them out!”

Summer dropped to her hands and shifted in a blink. Not the slow shimmering transformation she had done for Chuck the first night she met him. It was a quick, violent shift; she whimpered slightly as she stood on four feet.

Around her was chaos. Werewolves in both human and wolf shape were fighting off the feral wolves who were an eye wrenching mix of wolf and human. They seemed to be unwilling or unable to shift reliably and many were in some sort of halfway form. Summer watched one person, jaws and claws elongated but only half furred and human height, grappling with a large brindled wolf. Nearby, a man herded a group of children into one of the small cabins. Summer nodded approvingly when she heard the snap of a lock inside the door.

“Can you tell who is pack and who is feral?” Chuck asked. He walked up beside her, holstering one gun with his left hand and another held ready in his right hand.

Summer gave a quick nod.

Chuck looked hard at her. “You know,” he said quietly, “I need to put a reflective collar on you or something. I’m used to seeing a wolf and shooting. This is going to be hard as fuck.”

Summer growled and nipped lightly at his ankle.

Chuck danced back, shaking her off. “Fine! Fine, no collar. But if I need to know it’s you, three yips and a howl or something. Don’t just growl at me!”

She gave a quick “woof” of understanding then surged into the chaos.

Help us. Please.

Summer focused on a pair grappling at the edge of the cabins. The wolf struggled to fend off a half changed man. The feral man’s clawed hands, fingers elongated and tipped by claws, locked on the wolf’s snout as it drove at his neck. Summer flowed smoothly across the gravel path and leaped onto the man. Her jaws clamped on his neck, tearing into the strange mix of fur and flesh.

Please.

Knowing she had tacit permission to do her best, Summer’s fangs met fur and flesh. She didn’t even pause as she rent them asunder.

Summer had told Chuck that she retained her human mind when in wolf form, but it was only partly true. She retained human sensitivities, morals, and thoughts, but it was balanced against the wolf’s thoughts and instincts.

Right now, a member of her pack was in mortal peril, and the wolf’s instinct was in the driver’s seat.

Summer landed on the gravel path and whirled to leap again, not caring about the blood and gobbets of meat that hung from her jaws or the hunks of meat that lay strewn on the gravel path. She crouched, powerful hindquarters allowing her back feet to dig into the dig and bring her around. Her second charge let her teeth snap all the way through her foe’s jugular, severing it. She landed and turned to see her foe laying on the path, panting as the dry stones drank greedily of his life’s blood. Her packmate staggered back, trying to comprehend the violence that had played out in front of him.

The human part of her mourned the loss of life; the wolf only crouched and sought the next threat to her pack.

Her eyes locked on to the next pair grappling for dominance at the foot of the hewn wooden stairs to the next cabin. She attacked again.

Blood, fur, and meat flew, splattering the hewn wooden steps.

And again.

Splinters of bone, coated in unidentifiable gore, lodged into a hand-carved railing.

And again.

Something stuck in her teeth. Someone, she knew, but the wolf part of her mind ignored the gibbering screams of her human half as it annihilated any threat to her pack.

Occasionally, Chuck would assist her. Punctuating her dance of death with the tip of a knife or an elbow thrown at a strategic spot. But mostly, he let her work. Let her flow like blood coated death on four furry feet. Across gravel and grass, she danced, leaving only a path of dead foes and frightened packmates in her wake.

Summer finally cornered the last feral between the railing of the Pack House and its exterior wall. She was crouched to attack when Chuck called to her.

“Summer,” Chuck’s voice sounded weary, “interrogate him first.”

If she had been enervated by protecting her pack, he sounded wrung out. She glanced at her prey, seeing a quivering mass of flesh against a railing, and back to Chuck, who had a knife poised to throw. Chuck was clearly holding the half-shifted werewolf from running and offering her a hostage.

Summer took a half step back, dropped her head, and shifted back to human form. She rose, naked body dripping with blood like a long forgotten goddess of death. She looked to Chuck with the faintest hint of a smile. His eyes raked over her, taking in the smooth curve of taught muscle. The slow drip of blood across a flat belly and firm, muscled thigh. It was more than blood lust that burned in his eyes.

“Bind him. Gag him,” Summer told her packmates. “Throw him in a shed until I can shower and put clothes on,” she told Chuck. Power burned through her and command rang in her voice.

For a brief moment of friction burned the air. Around her, the pack scurried to obey as Chuck stood still.

He whispered two words, almost lost in the flurry of movement.

“Pack mistress.”

And the Scion of House Malcxasteco bowed his head, ever so slightly.


Enjoy what you just read? Please share on social media or email utilizing the buttons below, fans like you sharing what they love are what keeps this train rolling!

Want to read more works by Author KR Paul? You can find my first novel here and it’s sequel here.

Want more than that? Follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebook, and TikTok. Stay up to date on the latest KR Paul news by joining our mailing list.

Just looking for wild stories of cave diving, ultramarathons, blacksmithing, or powerlifting. Yeah, I’ve got those too!

Born, Not Bitten (Part 8)

Hey, all! Maybe you found me by Twitter, maybe by Instagram, maybe Facebook, maybe my book on Amazon, or maybe just by accident searching the web. No matter how you got here, I’m glad you stopped by. Grab a glass of your favorite beverage, settle in, and enjoy what I have to offer.


Summer listened to the gravel pop and crunch under the tires of Chuck’s Gray Man beater as they drove down the pack’s long driveway. She stared out into the veritable jungle ensnared in the beater’s headlights, but her mind lingered on a single moment, years ago.

When Chuck pulled onto the rural highway, she finally snapped back into the present. She didn’t speak. Only shifting to watch the road ahead and occasionally Chuck from the corner of her eye.

Both of his hands gripped the wheel. It was more than the assured grip of a confident driver, he clung to the wheel, knuckles going pale in under the half moon’s light.

When the intense quiet was finally too much, Summer spoke.

“What was it like being an Army medic?”

Chuck rocked back slightly, clearly surprised by the question. “Nerve racking. I wasn’t supposed to be in direct combat, but I was assigned to an infantry unit. If they were in combat, I was right there with them. Only, I carried a medical bag, not a gun.”

She watched his jaw tighten and knew the pain that tensed the corners of his eyes.

“How many people did you save?”

“I lost a lot of men.”

“That’s not what I asked,” she told him quietly.

“Twenty-three,” he told her after a brief silence. “Not as many as I should have.”

“That’s more than most people can claim in their life. Why did you leave the Army?”

“That war was over,” he said simply.

“Chuck, we’ve been fighting constantly for almost twenty years.”

“Desert Storm was over in days. The ground invasion was, anyway.”

Summer watched the road and tried to process what he said. If she remembered her High School history classes, Desert Storm had ended in 1991, which meant that he had left the Army almost six years before she had been born. He would have had to have been at least eighteen to enlist, plus training time, and time on the ground in Iraq, which made him almost thirty years older than her. She glanced at him. He didn’t look older than thirty, let alone fifty-five or more. She squinted at him. He had said, ‘That war,’ which made her think.

“Chuck,” she asked slowly, “was that your first war?”

“Vietnam. Like I said, I enlisted straight out of High School. I stayed in for a while during the bureaucratic shit show that was in between Vietnam and Desert Storm. Then, well, being an incubus caught up to me.”

The sound of Summer’s sharp inhalation was loud in the silence that followed Chuck’s statement.

“How fucking old are you, Chuck?” she asked into the silence that was broken only by the hum of the beaters tires.

He burst out laughing. The tension he held finally bursting out. “Seventy this April,” he told her with a dryly amused tone.

Summer made a choked noise. “Seventy? What are you, Aragorn, the Dúnedain? Blessed with long life?” Her tone was incredulous.

Chuck turned his eyes from the road and looked at her levelly. “For the record, Aragon was eighty. I’m only seventy and I’m an incubus, not one of the Dúnedain.”

“Fine,” she said in a huff. “What have you done for the last thirty years?”

“Well, it was tough to be in the military in the seventies and eighties when you attracted anyone who was even remotely attracted to men.”

Even in profile, Summer could see his frown.

“My control over myself wasn’t as good then as it is now. The Army, hell, the United States in general, wasn’t as open to that as it is now.” Chuck gave a one shoulder shrug. “But I knew a little about medicine, and patching people up in dire situations, so I became an EMT. I liked the idea of possibly saving lives rather than ruining them.”

“But now?”

“It ended much the same way my time in the Army did. I enjoyed the work, but I realized that the stress of life and death situations eroded my control over my power. I was good at it, don’t get me wrong, but it’s stressful. I’d get in these life and death situations, thinking I had control, then the next thing you know I have a crowd around me. Not gathered to gawk like people do, but drawn to me. You can’t blend in like that, I had to leave. I needed less stressful work. Or, at least, work that was stressful away from people.”

Summer nodded. “So, you became a Hunter?”

“It’s mostly solitary work. I can avoid people and their entanglements when I want to. Plus, it pays well.”

“If you want to avoid entanglements, why are you helping me and my pack?”

There was a long silence. Ill paved county highway hummed under the beater’s tires.

“Chuck.” Summer’s usually light voice was laden with meaning.

“No. Not right now.”

“Chuck?”

Summer watched his hands tighten slightly on the steering wheel. He took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly.

“No, Summer, not right now.” Before she could start bellowing at him in the tiny car, he rushed on. “I will tell you. I swear to it.” A faint pulse thrummed through the car. Not as strong as she had felt when she had promised to answer his questions, but similar in feel. “Is that enough?”

Summer frowned and thought a moment. “Will not knowing the answer bring me harm?”

“No,” he said quickly. “It–” he stopped himself. “No.”

Summer’s mouth compressed into a line, but she nodded. “Ok.”

A tense silence stretched along the pavement as the beater hummed along. Summer almost itched to ask him more, but held it in.

“You’re really bad at talking to werewolves, you know,” she finally blurted out.

“And you’re really bad at talking to crowds. What of it?” he said harshly.

Summer’s jaw dropped at his heated response and she stared at him across the dark interior.

“I told you before, they aren’t killers. You talked to them like they were Army or something. Weapons. Ammo. Overlapping lines of fire, for goodness sake!” she fumed.

“I don’t usually talk to werewolves because they’re usually trying to rip my throat out. Or gnaw my arm off. I expect them to act like wolves.”

“I told you, born werewolves aren’t like that. You’re thinking of ridiculous studies on caged wolves. Real wolves, free wolves,” she amended, “don’t kill for fun or hunt for sport. They aren’t violent to one another. Bitten werewolf packs are no different. They hunt and kill what they need to eat, but nothing more. My pack takes it a step further, they don’t even kill unless–”

Summer’s words cut off abruptly and she swallowed hard. She’d hit a very raw nerve twice in less than an hour and had no desire to push on it further. Pain and frustration roiled in her. She stared out the window into the soothing darkness.

Miles hummed by under the beater’s tires. The well-rutted country road jostled them occasionally, but the beater was well maintained and its suspension smoothed the ride as much as possible. Summer let the monotony of it wash over her.

“I’m sorry, Summer,” Chuck finally said.

Summer drew her gaze back to the interior, taking in his dimly illuminated profile. His nose looked as if it once was straight but had been broken and reset several times. The slight bend made him less aristocratic and more of a roguish look with a strong, masculine jaw. Exactly the kind of look she liked. Damn it.

“For what happened between you and your family,” he said quietly. Summer’s eyes followed the sweep of his jaw as he spoke. “And for saying you were bad at speaking in public.”

Summer watching his mouth tug into a smile and realized she was staring. “I’m sorry for snapping at you,” she told him, tearing her eyes away and looking back out the window.

“It’s ok, family is hard.”

“Pack,” she corrected him absently.

“Family,” he said firmly.

Summer dragged her eyes back from the gritty window and looked at him.

“Look, I get that you don’t understand real pack dynamics, but they’re my pack, not my family. Not since my family died. Or,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I was pushed out.”

“No, Summer, you don’t understand, this is absolutely all about your family.”

The beater hit another bump and Summer grabbed for the vinyl strap over the window. “Chuck!” Summer clenched her jaw and let another half mile of pavement stretch behind them. “My family is dead. My pack shoved me out. I have no family,” she spit.

“That’s what I’m trying to tell you, they aren’t all dead. Your–”

Whatever Chuck had been about to say was cut short by the shrill ring of Summer’s phone.

“Summer,” she said curtly. “What?”

There was a heavy pause. Summer, focused on the call, couldn’t see Chuck’s jaw working as he held back his comment.

“When? We just left! Ok, we’ll head right back!” Summer punched the phone off. “Turn around! Go back!”

“What Summer? What’s happened?” Chuck asked as he slowed to turn.

“The pack has been attacked. They took Auntie Rose,” Summer grit out, the sharp turn pressing her into the passenger door.

“Who? Who took her?” Chuck asked, but he already knew.

Her eyes locked with his for a brief moment. Fear and pain pinching the corners of her eyes.

“The feral pack.”


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