(Dark Reflections Book 1)
(Dark Reflections Book 1)
by Dean Murray
Bound is the first book in Dean Murray's Dark Reflections series. Also available: Hunted and Ambushed. Available for pre-order: Shattered.
For more books by this author, check out my blog post on Frozen Prospects and my blog post on The Greater Darkness (writing as Eldon Murphy). You can also check out the books in the Reflections series.
A white-knuckled thrill ride that will keep your eyes glued to the page.
Blood: For shape shifter Alec Graves, nothing is more important than family.
Duty: Life in the pack requires sacrifices. No matter the cost, Alec always gets the job done.
Consequences: Alec will be forced to choose between duty and love, between right and wrong. Before the final note plays, he'll learn the true meaning of sacrifice.
It was exactly the wrong thing to say. I knew it as soon as the words hit the air. Jasmin probably knew it even before she opened her mouth, but that didn't stop her from saying it.
"Oh, yeah? Well, better a second-rate wolf than a third-rate hybrid who exists solely to serve as Brandon's whipping boy."
It was exactly the opening that Vincent had been looking for. He'd been riding Jasmin for days trying to get enough of a rise out of her to justify putting her in her place, but she'd been unusually calm—at least right up until that point.
Jasmin and I had slipped out to nearly the outer reaches of the estate in an effort to get away from the constant dominance games that were an inherent part of pack life. We'd found a quiet spot out by the mountain that overlooked Graves Manor from the north and hunkered down to do some homework.
Once upon a time just getting away from the house would have been enough to guarantee ourselves some privacy, but ever since Brandon had manifested his full hybrid ability Kaleb, my father—although I didn't like to think of him as such—had been giving him and his lackeys a much greater run of the estate.
Vincent backhanded Jasmin into a scrubby tree with enough force that she would have at the very least had a concussion if she'd been merely human. As it was she still hit hard enough to see stars, and her knees buckled as soon as her feet touched the ground, but she still managed to glare up at him from the ground.
"I'd tell you what I really think of you, you illiterate piece of crap, but I'd have to use words bigger than two syllables, which you wouldn't understand. Not even your own mother could put up with you long enough to teach you basic manners."
If Jasmin's first comment had been the spark that started a fire, this was pouring gas on the flame. Vincent had the incident he'd been angling for, but her comment must have actually upset him. Rather than playing things cool and using the opportunity to abuse her without actually triggering a full challenge, instead he screamed and shifted.
Jasmin had to be at least a little unsteady on her feet, but she likewise changed forms in an explosion of clothing that left fragments of material fluttering in a circle around her. As Vincent stalked towards Jasmin in his hulking hybrid form my pulse sped up.
A hybrid has a head, two arms and two legs, but that's about where the resemblance to a human being ends. Humans are tool users, hybrids are six-foot plus tall mountains of muscle and fur that were designed with only one purpose in mind.
Everything from the backwards-articulating knees, to the talons on their feet and the eight-inch semi-retractable claws at the end of each finger, spoke to the ability of a hybrid to explode into motion without warning and rend flesh as though it was nothing more than wet paper.
Jasmin hadn't ever manifested a third shape. She was a wolf now, sleek, fast, and deadly in her own way, but she wasn't a match for Vincent, not today, not as shaken up as she was after being thrown into a tree like that. There were things that were even bigger and nastier than a hybrid, but even if one of them had been close at hand it would have been just as likely to kill Jasmin as help her face down Vincent.
I knew Vincent wasn't going to be satisfied with just roughing Jasmin up. He might even be far enough gone to kill her despite the hot water that it would get him into with Kaleb. It was one of those times where nearly every part of me was screaming that it was time to panic, but I'd learned that these kinds of situations are usually when it's most important to take a second and calmly analyze my options.
The breeze played across my face and I took a deep breath, reveling for the briefest of moments in the smell of cedar trees and sage. There were a thousand other scents, some of them only just detectible to me in this form, but it was the cedar and sagebrush that formed the bulwark upon which all of the other scents rested.
I could hear Vincent's heavy stride and Jasmin's lighter, four-footed steps, but I tried to put that out of my mind as I let my eyes play over the landscape. The estate was situated around one of the area's only artesian wells, which meant it was a relatively unique pocket of green in the otherwise dull brown and red southern Utah landscape. Zion National Park was just visible off in the distance and it had its share of foliage as well, but between here and there was little more than rocks, dust, and dying plant life.
I looked back at Jasmin and Vincent and suddenly knew how to stop him. "If you attack Jasmin, then I'll kill you, Vincent."
I'd been half afraid that he was too far gone to register my words, but he pulled up as though he'd run into something.
"That's the prerogative of a pack alpha, Alec. If you're creating your own little pack then there's no need for me to stomp Jasmin into the ground because your dad will rip both of you into little pieces."
"I'm not saying that you can't challenge her, I'm just saying that once you are done fighting her I'll challenge you myself."
It was risky. Custom usually provided both parties to a challenge fight with a few days of immunity from dominance fights so long as they didn't get in people's faces over stupid stuff. We didn't have much in the way of hard-and-fast rules, but we shape shifters tended to treasure the few we had. They were the only thing keeping us from devolving into the savage animals whose forms we assumed.
"You've got an overinflated sense of your own lethality, Alec. Even if you manage to beat me using such an underhanded tactic, you'll still lose your own traditional period of immunity. There won't be anything stopping Nathanial and Simon from ripping you apart once you're done fighting me. You'll have people lining up to take you down."
My heartbeat had slowed back down. It was debatable whether or not Vincent was close enough to hear my pulse, but I found myself hoping he could. When you're up against people with superhuman senses it becomes very difficult to bluff. I'd found that it was just best not to even try. Instead I always tried to make sure that whomever I was up against understood exactly what I was prepared to do.
"I can take you down, and you know it, Vincent. I came out on top in both of our last fights and Jasmin is bound to do at least some damage to you no matter how badly you beat her in the end. It's not a question of if I'll kill you, it's just a question of what happens after you're gone. You may be right that Nathanial and Simon will jump in afterwards, but that's not going to make any difference to you, not once you're dead."
"Your dad has forbidden the pack from killing each other. He'll stick you in a box somewhere for a week while he decides whether or not to execute you."
"You can't have it both ways, Vincent. Either your friends are going to kill me or they aren't. I don't think you understand what I'm telling you. I don't particularly care how I go at this point, I just want to make sure that I stop you from hurting Jasmin before I go down."
"Maybe I should just kill you now and then I can do whatever the hell I want to Jasmin after you're gone."
"What about Kaleb?"
"Brandon will keep him off of my back. Your dad's not going to risk pissing Brandon off, not for you, not when you still haven't manifested that power that Mallory is so excited ab—."
The transformation ripped through me in a flash as Vincent sprang at me.
I've really been enjoying Dean Murray's Reflections series, so when I saw that this is a kind of alternate timeline, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn't enjoy it so much. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I like this book just as much as the others! Having read the other books, this one gave a better knowledge of the characters. Had I not read the other books, this one would still be a great starting book to get into the series. So whether you're already a fan of the author or brand new, this book is well worth the read.
About the Author
Dean Murray discovered the joys of reading at a young age and unknowingly ingested unhealthy doses of romance along with his science fiction and fantasy. By the time he realized what had happened it was too late to reverse the process and he spent his formative years (while his peers were still convinced that girls had cooties) trying to convince one specific girl to be his girlfriend to no avail.
As fate would have it, he's incredibly grateful that he failed in his attempts in second grade because it meant that he was able to eventually find his real happily ever after with his wife Katie to whom he's been happily married for more than six years.
Dean is the author of seventeen published novels (and a host of short stories), which collectively have more than 480,000 copies in circulation, and he's currently writing six books a year in an effort to create the perfect, larger than life romance story - which he's pretty sure involves either vampire, werewolves, fairies or shape shifters.
You can find a complete list of Dean's work and keep up to speed on his current projects at DeanWrites.com.