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About the author:
Both K A and Aya can be found occupying the same body in the streets of Bangkok, snacking on Pad Thai and poor imitations of pizza, dreaming up the next story.
What inspired you to write your book?
I wanted to take an established trope and put a unique spin on it, I’ve always loved werewolves, but stories in the genre can often be sadly cliched, treading the same well worn path. With The First Alpha I wanted to introduce something new, and to throw in a religious angle to mix it up a little.
Here is a short sample from the book:
“Good Lord, there’s a naked man on the floor! Is he quite alright?”
Cassie spun around with surprise, almost slipping in the pool of blood seeping into the floorboards. “Oh, Rutherford, it’s you! You scared the life out of me!”
An elderly man stood in the doorway, supporting himself on a steel framed walker, his shoulders hunched over with age. He wore a jaunty knitted sweater covered with pictures of snowmen, despite the fact that it was midsummer, and a pair of baggy white boxer shorts. He’d clearly forgotten his trousers again.
“Do you need any help, Miss? I could fetch a blanket for him, if you’d like?”
Cassie smiled wanly and shook her head. “No thank you, Rutherford. He’s quite warm enough. Please, come in and rest your feet. Cup of tea?”
Rutherford grinned broadly. “I thought you’d never ask, Miss. I’m parched.” He shuffled slowly over to the long pine table in the middle of the room and gingerly lowered himself to a seat as Cassie picked herself up. It appeared he’d already lost interest in Adam now a cup of Earl Grey lay in his future.
“Sorry about the mess, Rutherford. Don’t worry, I’ll clean up just as soon as we’ve had our tea.”
The old man smiled and waved her away. “Don’t you worry about it, young Miss. I’m sure the maid will take care of it. Stephanie, I think she’s called. Comes on a Tuesday. Today’s Tuesday, isn’t it? I’m always forgetting my days.”
Cassie shook her head. Forgetting the days of the week were the least of the old man’s problems. “No, Rutherford, it’s Thur–”
“Pamela! That’s her name, Pamela,” he interrupted. “Lovely girl. Plays the clarinet. Bit on the… shall we say Rubenesque side, but there’s nothing wrong with a good healthy appetite, I’ve always said. Nothing wrong with a little meat on a girl’s bones.” His eyes lit up as Cassie placed a teacup in front of him. “Ooh, lovely!” He nodded towards Adam’s body, the drooping skin of his neck stretching like an old tortoise. “So, what’s his story? He doesn’t look too clever.”
“He’s just visiting, Rutherford. He had an accident in the forest, and he just needs a rest before he moves on.” Cassie watched as the old man nodded, perfectly satisfied with the answer. She could have said he was the President of Uganda and he wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow, so long as he had a nice hot cup of tea in front of him.
Rutherford peered over the top of his teacup. “Is he one of them werewolves, then? He looks the spit of Master Lucius.”
Cassie nodded. She was always surprised at the way the old man’s mind worked. Tell him he was the captive of a pack of vicious werewolves who could tear him in two like a sheet of wet paper and he’d simply nod and smile. Tell him there was no more Brie for his crackers and he’d scream bloody murder.
According to Lucius, Rutherford had been the true owner of the house until Lucius had taken it from him. He was a senile, wealthy old Englishman without any living family, and from what Cassie had been able to gather from Lucius he’d made a fortune in shipping before losing his mind and becoming something of a hermit.
Lucius told her he’d simply walked up to the house one day years earlier, before he’d taken over as alpha of the Ironclaws, with the intention of killing Rutherford and squatting in his home. He’d been greeted warmly by the old man at the door, and it quickly became clear that it would be much less messy to convince the addled old man to sign over the deed to his property. Cassie suspected there was more to the story, and she wondered how Lucius had resisted the urge to kill the old man as soon as the house was signed over, but he’d made it clear that further questions would be unwelcome.
In the years since then Rutherford had taken on the role of housekeeper. He seemed to think Lucius was the man of the house, and he seemed quite happy to spend his days trying to help keep the place in order. In fact he did more harm than good, ironing holes in his shirts and forgetting how to dress, but Cassie enjoyed having somebody around to talk to, even if he forgot every word she said after five minutes. Especially because of that. It meant she could spill her problems on him without worrying he’d reveal them to Lucius.
As for this Pamela woman, no doubt she was a distant memory from his past. For obvious reasons no maids visited the house. Despite the strict laws against hunting humans Lucius wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to slaughter them whenever he got bored.
“Why’s he look like that? Look, he’s gone all red.” He pointed at Adam’s still form, his skin burning as if with a fever.
“He’s healing, Rutherford. He was shot by a hunter, and now he needs lots of energy to allow his cells to repair. I’ll have to feed him again a little later, but don’t worry. He’ll be right as rain in a few hours.”
“Oh, that’s nice,” the old man smiled, smacking his lips as he savored his tea. “I do admire how you folks can do that. I remember when Master Lucius’ young friend lost those fingers in the wood chipper. I tell you, it was a miracle to watch them grow back like that, just popping out like buds in spring.”
Cassie nodded silently. She’d heard about that, and it hadn’t been an accident that Grayson lost his fingers. Lucius had pushed his hand in the chipper for talking back to him.
“Praise the good Lord, I say.” The old man took another sip and fell into deep thought for a moment. “I wonder, could you help me do that? Only I’ve been having trouble with my hip, you see. A visit to the WC after dark is an assault course, I don’t mind telling you!”
Cassie chuckled. Rutherford never failed to cheer her up. “I’m sorry, old man, it only works for us. I can offer you a biscuit to go with your tea, though. How does that sound?”
The old man grinned, exposing a mouthful of crooked yellow teeth. “A biscuit would be perfection, my love, pure perfection. You’re too kind to me, Miss. I’d like a Garibaldi, if it’s not too much bother.” He smiled broadly as she slid a plate beside him, and Cassie watched as he happily chewed, sprinkling crumbs down the front of his colorful sweater.
“So tell me, miss,” he said, spraying a mouthful of moist biscuit, “how does all this work? I’ve not seen the doctor in a while, but I’m sure they can’t grow fingers back yet. Sounds fascinating.”
Cassie sighed. She’d explained a dozen times over, but right now she didn’t mind talking as long as it meant she didn’t have to think about how she’d get out of this mess. The bloodstains on the floorboards were a particular problem.
“Well, it’s all a little complicated, Rutherford, but I’ll try to keep it simple. You see, humans and werewolves are made up of different… let’s say building blocks. There are things you call stem cells. They’re like normal cells, but they can turn into anything. Lungs, hearts, teeth, hair, anything at all. When humans develop these cells become fixed, and they can’t change any more, but with us they never fix. We’re made up of stem cells all our lives, so when we suffer an injury we can heal much, much faster than humans. It also means we can shift into another form, but… well, we don’t really know how that works. We just… think it, and it happens. We think it’s something to do with our genes.”
Rutherford nodded absently. He didn’t really understand, she knew, but it was nice to talk.
“The thing is that stem cells need a lot of energy to function, so healing leaves us very weak, just like you get when you forget to eat your supper and your blood sugar dips. We need to eat lots of food to replace the energy we use, or the cells will stop healing and we might die, if our injuries are severe enough. On a normal day, though, we just need a few hundred more calories than humans to keep us ticking over. We don’t age like you, you see. Lucius is five hundred years old, for example. I’m just twenty three, but I might live to a thousand if I’m careful.”
Rutherford chewed thoughtfully. “Oh yes, I remember you told me about those gents in the Bible. The old fellows.”
Once again she was surprised at the way his memory worked. Some details stuck like glue while others floated away on the breeze. “Yes, the Bible, remember? All those people like Methuselah, Seth, Lamech and Noah, they all lived hundreds of years, but it’s only because they were like us. The humans who wrote the Bible thought everyone used to live that long in the old days, but in fact not many people lived longer than thirty years. Legends built up around these special men, which is why they wrote about them. So Adam here,” she said, pointing towards the slumbering man, “he looks around thirty, but he could actually be hundreds of years old.” A thought occurred to her as she watched his chest slowly rise and fall. “Maybe… maybe even older.” She shook her head, dismissing the thought. No, he couldn’t be. She’d seen great age in those eyes, but no wolf could live that long. She looked to the old man, devouring his second biscuit. “Do you understand?”
Rutherford remained silent for a moment, staring at his biscuit in deep thought. Suddenly his eyes brightened.
“Dawn! The maid, she’s called Dawn, not Pamela! Dawn Cartwright! Comes on Tuesdays. Pamela was her sister. The fat one, with the lovely big bum! Good grief, I’d forget my head if it wasn’t screwed on… Sorry, miss, what were you saying? My mind wandered.”