by Carole Cummings
(Wolf’s Own #1)
Publication date: November 4th 2014
Genres: Fantasy, New Adult, Paranormal
Untouchable. Ghost. Assassin. Mad. Fen Jacin-rei is all these and none. His mind is host to the spirits of long-dead magicians, and Fen’s fate should be one of madness and ignoble death. So how is it Fen lives, carrying out shadowy vengeance for his subjugated people and protecting the family he loves?
Kamen Malick means to find out. When Malick and his own small band of assassins ambush Fen in an alley, Malick offers Fen a choice: Join us or die.
Determined to decode the intrigue that surrounds Fen, Malick sets to unraveling the mysteries of Fen’s past. As Fen’s secrets slowly unfold, Malick finds irony a bitter thing when he discovers the one he wants is already hopelessly entangled with the one he hunts.
“It’s him,” Samin muttered in what was surely meant to be a whisper, but emerged more as a gruff growl. Malick flicked him a look replete with <i>No shit, genius</i>. “Ya think?” How many Untouchables, after all, ventured into a place like this? How many of them lived long enough to be of age to enter? Not that “of age” really mattered, when it came to the laws of Untouchables. Samin ignored Malick, merely narrowed his eyes at the man, tilting his head like a curious pup. “He doesn’t <i>look </i>mental.” Malick’s eyebrows rose as he shot a look at Samin and then back at the Ghost. With the want clenching in Malick’s gut—well, more precisely, in his trousers—“mental” was rather beside the point, but Samin was right. Calm and calculating, not wild and desperate as the few Untouchables Malick had seen had been. And fit, too, where the others had been thin and fragile, rickety with ill health, and too pale. This one’s color was full and hearty, his eyes alive with intelligence. He was obviously well fed, and all that hair plaited down his back looked thick and lustrous. Even as they watched, the braid swung heavily over the man’s shoulder as he dipped down a bit to sweep a quick, surreptitious touch to his right boot and then his left forearm. To anyone else, it might look like the man was scratching an itch. “Knives,” Malick said quietly. Samin’s head tilted farther. “Shouldn’t be allowed,” he muttered, disapproving, and when he noted the lift of Malick’s eyebrow, he shook his head. “They’re dangerous enough as it is. An Untouchable oughtn’t be allowed a weapon any more than a child.” “You don’t think they should be allowed to defend themselves?” Malick posed the question with real interest. If anyone had an informed opinion on the matter, it would be Samin. Samin’s mouth set in a grim line. “Defend themselves against what?” he wanted to know. “They’re called ‘Untouchable’ for a reason. No one—Jin or Adan—would dare lay hands on a Ghost, though they’ve not been true Catalysts for… too bloody long.” A weird mix of sympathy and disgust twisted his hard face. “I’ve seen enough of them, starved and raving. Their own kin won’t touch them, not even to help.” Malick peered at Samin closely. “Would <i>you </i>ever interfere?” he asked, genuinely curious. “Isn’t that why we’re here?” “You’re a funny man, Samin.” “I’m a practical man, Mal.” Malick politely refrained from giving Samin a sharp thwack to his big, giant head. “You know what I mean. A typical Untouchable.” Because the Untouchable quietly choosing himself a whore across the room was certainly <i>not </i>typical. In any way. A long sigh huffed out of Samin’s chest, and he shot a careful glance to all sides, then leaned in closer to Malick. “The laws are there for a reason.” The narrow blue gaze followed the Ghost, watched him pause to speak to one of the boys, before Samin turned his head to look at Malick squarely. “But the laws are still locked in fear. The Ancestors have been sending their Untouchables insane for too long, and something needs to be done. If I ever came across some poor, mad soul who couldn’t keep enough sense in his head to know he was hungry, or even remember how to eat… if I was alone and unobserved, yeah, I’d interfere.” Interesting. But not surprising, coming from Samin. Malick merely nodded. “I suppose the real worry is the ones who’ve gone completely off the jump, and decide they need to take a few others with them.” He’d seen it once, when he’d had a commission in one of the camps: a young girl, perhaps thirteen or so, with that telltale braid, wild-eyed and snarling insanity, stoning a middle-aged woman who’d done nothing but stand there and scream, taking it. A crowd of onlookers merely stood watching, eyes full of horror and sorrow, but Malick hadn’t been able to tell for whom either was meant. And when a man Malick guessed was the woman’s husband attempted halfheartedly to lay hands on the girl, pull his wife away, the crowd stepped in and beat the man. Malick didn’t know if it was to death—he hadn't waited about to find out. A far cry from what the Untouchables used to be. Catalysts once, now this man’s kind were merely Ghosts, haunted by the laws once meant to set them apart, almost revere them, but now only dragged out an inevitably ugly end. Touching an Untouchable—for good or ill—with the intent to alter his course, was death. No excuses, no explanations, no quarter. One of the few laws the Jin were allowed to keep when they were overridden and conquered by Ada. Even the Adan held to it, though it had never really been tested, and Malick would be very surprised if an Adan were ever put to death for the sake of a Jin. At any rate, no Untouchable he’d heard of had ventured into the city for a very long time, let alone a whorehouse, and that after the Gates had already closed for the night. Not typical, indeed.
Carole lives with her husband and family in Pennsylvania, USA, where she spends her time trying to find time to write. Recipient of various amateur writing awards, several of her short stories have been translated into Spanish, German, Chinese and Polish.
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