Extract from the First Draft of Dog Days
by T.A. Moore
First of all, thank you so much for having me! I’m thrilled to be here with the blog tour for Wolf at the Door, the final book in the Wolf Winter trilogy.
The final book. Wow. I am half-excited and half-maudlin about this. It’s a good book, and a good ending. Or, at least, I think so. Hopefully everyone else will agree. Still, endings. It’s always a bit scary to see them coming.
So, I thought for this final blog tour I’d go back to the beginning and the very first draft of Dog Days with some never before seen extracts.
Extract from the First Draft of Dog Days by TA Moore
(Author’s Note: Poor Danny. He worked so hard to be human, but wolves always steal the limelight. At least Jack thought he was the most interesting person in a room! I pared this right down for the final version, but I think the idea of Jack holding court so easily to a larger group does work. In the end, though, it just distracted from Jack and Danny a little.)
Sometimes – living amongst humans, pretending he was human 353 days out of the year – Danny was able to shove the stranger aspects of being a shifter to the back of his mind. It wasn’t part of his life, turning into a dog was the weirdest thing he did. For most wolves – urban, integrated, civilised most of the time – it was the weirdest thing they did.
Jack wasn’t urban or civilised. The wolf lay close to his skin, and furside or skinside his eyes were the same. He brought the wild with him – dark and raw and sharp – and he was the stranger side of being a shifter.
With no discussion, the group had ceded the seat at the head of the table to him. Metaphorically as well as literally, attention and conversation eddying around him. He was – not larger than life in the way that people usually meant, just more vivid, more intense. Even when he was slouched down, obviously bored, and poking at gruel with a spoon.
Danny could see tension prickling around the table, people vying with each other to be the one to interest and engage Jack’s attention. His mum had the same talent, this heady presence that made her the preening centre of attention in a club or a jobseekers line. Except she was a candle compared to Jack’s hundred-candle watt floodlight.
‘So you and Danny are old friends?’ Jenny asked, touching his arm. Her fingers traced the angular black lines of ink that banded his forearm. ‘I can’t believe he’s never mentioned you before?’
Jack left his broth – a skin of starch starting to clot on the surface – and took a drink of sour raw whiskey. He was the only one at the table who didn’t squint and hiss at it hitting the back of their throat.
‘Me either,’ he said, glancing down the table at Danny. ‘Maybe he was ashamed of ME, what with him working at the university and all. He was the…’
‘Associate lecturer of History,’ Jenny provided absently. ‘I’m sure that’s not it though, what do you do, Jack?’
‘This and that,’ he shrugged lazily. ‘I get by.’
Jenny giggled and infatuation put colour in her cheeks and light in her eyes. Down the table heads nodded admiringly.
‘Jack of all trades,’ someone said, making everyone chuckle. Paul, a barrel-chested window cleaner, pointed a blunt, swollen-jointed finger at Jack. ‘University of life, am I right?’ he said.
It wasn’t really fair to resent it. Danny hated it when everyone looked at him like he was in charge, and – despite what Jenny thought – he wasn’t in love with her. He still did resent it, the feeling like a bundle of barbed wire jammed into his chest. The idea that he might resent not being the focus of Jack’s attention did occur to him, but he shoved that firmly into an ‘ignore’ box. Lust was bad enough, without ending up lovelorn as a human, his head turned by the presence of a wolf.
He leaned forwards, bracing his elbows on the table.
‘You used to work on your Dad’s estate, didn’t you?’ he said. ‘Up in the hills, with the sheep.’
Jack glanced at him, a sandy brown eyebrow raising. A couple of the people praising him for being hard scrabble flushed and withdrew a little, most of the table just adjusted their expectations to fit.
‘You’re Scottish then?’ Neela asked, lacing her fingers together. Her fingers bruised, scuffed across the knuckles from working with brambles, and her eyes huge and moony. ‘Properly Scottish, I mean, a Highlander.’
She sort of sighed the word. It got her a grin from Jack, his whole body shifting towards her as his attention moved. ‘Sort of,’ he said mildly. ‘We’re blow-ins really, back in the time of the Romans.’
Everyone laughed. Except Danny, who was feeling – perhaps, just a little – sullen, and at the far end of the table, exiled and excluded, a glowering Lee, who was directing his mutterings towards Jack instead of Danny. As if Jack had been the one to split his lip and bruise his face. Apparently he was just a better class of enemy than Danny.
It was so ridiculous to feel slighted by that, the affront to his self-importance actually cooled his temper. He finished his bowl of thin soup and sat back, grabbing a hard-dried apple to chew.