Black Friday is here and we’re discussing the season with Shawntelle Madison’s Natalya from Kept.
Fresh from defending her pack in battle, Natalya Stravinsky, a whip-smart werewolf with a lovable neurotic streak, wants a little rest and relaxation. Once an outcast, she’s now eager to rejoin the ranks of her New Jersey pack, and has even gotten a handle on her obsessive urge to hoard holiday ornaments. Yet Nat barely has time to revel in her progress before the next crisis comes howling at her door.
Nat’s father has suddenly gone missing, captured by the Russian werewolf mafia. And as Nat steps up to save her dad from a mob boss’s deadly game, two men step in to play another round for her heart: her gorgeous alpha ex-boyfriend, Thorn, and her new flame, the sweetly sensitive wizard Nick. With her life growing more harried by the minute, Nat must stay cool, calm, and collected . . . or else risk losing everything.
Make sure you stick around to the end. We’ll be giving away a copy of Kept.
Natalya’s Happy Holiday Hunt
This story takes place during Kept.
As you stand outside in the cold—or the warmth depending on your location—waiting for the upcoming Black Friday sale, you’d never realize that you had brushed shoulders with werewolves and other magical creatures. My kind, werewolves, love a sale in these kind of conditions. For us, it’s the hunt, the chance for the human side of the equation to prowl the aisles to snag the final prize: a coveted piece of electronics or even a cheap two dollar blender. Either way, we expect to win. Remember that old lady who amazingly snatched a LCD TV from a grown man? (Werewolf.) Or the little girl who got the most popular toy before a mob of mothers snatched it? (Werewolf pup.) Maybe you thought you’d gotten up too early and didn’t really see that old man race down the aisle with the TV raised over his head. Yep, you did. And packs all over the United States were just getting revved up for the next chase.
That was the feeling I had right before the doors opened. The anticipation. The thrill of what I could buy. Unfortunately, I’m not like other werewolves. Underneath the layer of excitement, something else lingered, writhing under my skin like a centipede crawling across. It was fear. It sucked at my enthusiasm and reminded me of how much I hated having an obsessive compulsive disorder.
Right next to me, my grandma took my hand. I glanced down at her and tried to return her smile.
“You’ll be fine, Natalya,” Grandma Lasovskaya said in Russian. She rubbed my palm, the softness of her elderly skin brought me comfort. As a hard-of-hearing elderly werewolf who had seen the busy bazaars of fifteen-century Russia, this place might’ve seemed calm.
Somehow, I’d convinced my mom and dad to let me take Grandma out shopping. They didn’t like the idea of Grandma out with all these rabid humans, but if one truly thought about it, there was a better chance of me and her taking them out.
The closest department store, Gingham’s, had gone all out to bring in the customers. Major stores and smaller mom-and-pop businesses along the Garden State Parkway had hailed this Black Friday sale as one of the biggest in New Jersey. Every Gingham’s would have free gifts for the first fifty customers and a slew of mark-offs to make a holiday trinket collector like myself all the more eager to open my pocketbook.
After waiting in line for an hour, the doors finally opened and the crowd surged forward. A zealous couple tried to run over Grandma, but I growled at them. They even had the nerve to whisper curses under their breaths. If that jerk tried to cut in front of her again, I’d show him what happened when you rubbed a wolf’s fur the wrong way.
At the entrance, we got the beloved door prize: a golden Gingham’s ornament. Not the fanciest thing—the plastic jewels and fuzzy balls along the large letter “G” was quite gaudy. But who cared? It was all mine and a suitable addition to my collection. Hell, if someone else didn’t want theirs, I’d give it a home. I tucked the door prize under my arm and took Grandma’s hand with my free one. The whole place was a happy holiday hoarder’s dreamscape. Blaringly loud Christmas music on the speakers, tinsel and laurels hung about like weedy overgrowth, and of course, numerous Christmas displays with flashing lights to snatch our attention and entice us to buy, buy, buy.
I had no plans to buy clothes, the latest electronics at steep discounts, or even the cheap DVDs—which folks seemed to be clamoring for already. My grip on Grandma’s hand tightened and I raced toward the back of the store. Heading there was easier said than done with the crowd of humans scrambling around us. They squawked and yelled, none of them quiet as they grabbed the purchase they wanted. I had just one. For the past couple of weeks, I’d received emails with coupons, promises from the store that they’d have this or that in stock. One of the advertisements had caught my scent and I’d never let it go. When I wasn’t worried about the pending trials for my re-entry into the pack, this particular ad had sat a sliver of a afterthought. Gingham’s had a limited edition jewelry box Christmas ornament. Only eight hundred had been ordered for the stores here in the US. It wasn’t available online—I’d already checked.
Grandma chuckled behind me as we weaved through the crowd, past boys clothing, beyond formal women’s attire. We strolled past a family of warlocks who’d managed to get an older man to give up a popular game console with the latest release. The hunt was in full frenzy now. I kept my eyes low and shuffled past them. I was almost there.
At the far end of the aisle, I spotted it, behind two displays which obscured part of the view. Based on the number of stores, (yes, I looked it up), each store would have at least three available. The grin on my face grew—until I realized the only thing I held was my purse.
My grandma wasn’t behind me. Only the crowd around me—filling every single space. I scanned the floor, endless faces, some of them familiar, but most of them strangers. Panic settled into my chest and expanded into prickly spikes. People continued to shop around me as I left the main aisle and went down a smaller one.
My nose couldn’t help me either. So many scents—too many unwashed bodies of humans and other supernatural creatures. It was already hard enough for me endure being here to get what I wanted. The loud music and the noise from the other shoppers was too much also. Grandma could’ve yelled at the top of her lungs and I wouldn’t have heard her.
The panic in me threatened to rise to a bitter crescendo. Get to higher ground, my wolf instructed. Search. Find. The human in me wanted to escape, to head out the door before the panic became too much to bear. After a few cleansing breaths, I managed to clamp down on it and focus. I climbed on the shoe rack a few aisles away. A few people stared, but no one stopped me as I checked out the whole store. Based on what I could see, there was no sign of Grandma. This wasn’t good.
I ran through the crowd this time, ready to hurt anybody who’d put their hands on her. There wasn’t anyone I knew who would’ve harmed her, but everybody had secrets in their past—just like my father.
The entrance lead back out into the early morning’s darkness. Shoppers continued to enter the store, oblivious to my icy fear. The parking lot was just as busy, but it didn’t take me long to find her and feel like a fool. There was Grandma Lasovskaya, sitting in one of those assistive scooters. She had the hugest grin on her face. So that’s how she got out so fast. In her hands, she held a box with shiny corners and glossy lettering: the jewelry box Christmas ornament. She extended my prize in air and beckoned me to come.
“For a werewolf with a collecting habit like your great-grandma Ludmilla, you aren’t the most cunning shopper.” She took my hand and we walked to my car. I couldn’t resist grinning as I shook my head.
“You need to go shopping more often with your grandma,” she said. “Your babushka will show you how it’s done.”
Meet Shawntelle Madison!
Shawntelle Madison is a web developer who loves to weave words as well as code. She’d never admit it, but if asked she’d say she covets and collects source code. After losing her first summer job detassling corn, Shawntelle performed various jobs—from fast-food clerk to grunt programmer to university webmaster. Writing eccentric characters is her most favorite job of them all. On any particular day when she’s not surgically attached to her computer, she can be found watching cheesy horror movies or the latest action-packed anime. She lives in Missouri with her husband and children.
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Thank you Shawntelle for taking part in Literary Escapism’s Black Friday!
Shawntelle is giving away a copy of Kept. To enter, all you have to do is answer this one question: Is there one particular item you desperately want this holiday season? Remember, you must answer the question in order to be entered.
Even though I’m not giving the additional entries any more, you can still help support the author by sharing their article, and this contest, on your blog, Twitter, Facebook, or anywhere you can. After all, the more people who are aware of this fabulous author ensures we get more fabulous stories.
The winner must post a review of the novel someplace. Whether it is on their own blog, Amazon, GoodReads, LibraryThing or wherever, it doesn’t matter. Just help get the word out.
All Black Friday contests will remain open until December 31st at which time I’ll determine the winner with help from the snazzy new plug-in I have. Have you checked out the other Black Friday contests yet? Check out the Master List to see all the Black Friday giveaways
I have not been contacting winners, so you will need to check back to see if you’ve won.