FORBIDDEN MOON

Don’t miss the Writing Of and Reading Sample below!

Wolf shifters have kept the secret of their existence for centuries, living in harmony with their human neighbors. Now, a secretive blogger threatens to expose them to the world. While efforts are made to find the dangerous human, packs everywhere tighten their security. Meanwhile, Gladstone is plagued by a series of attacks by unknown assailants. Threatened on every side, Ben must find a way to protect his people or risk losing everything.

Amid the danger, Jonah discovers his long-awaited mate. Trouble is, he’s not what anyone expected. What should have been a joyous union is marred by secrets and deception, presenting Ben and the pack with a difficult problem. Will Jonah’s unconventional mating bring happiness, or has Luna made a serious error?

Join your favorite shifter pack for a thrill ride of danger, secrets, drama, and romance in this fourth installment of the Gladstone Shifters – FORBIDDEN MOON! (Contains steamy M/M content.)

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See what readers are saying!

“I have followed this series from the beginning and enjoy catching up with my Gladstone friends. I feel like I know these people, and loved this action/romance/laugh-out-loud story. What a great book!” T.C.

“Elliott crafts his best, boldest story here with moments of humor, danger, cultural respect, and topical racism all woven together into an endearing love story. Fast paced, lovable characters and hot sex! Highly Recommended!!” Doug, Amazon reviewer

“Another wonderful book with great characters, interesting plot, and fantastic world-building. It was like coming home, and I hope the series continues. Definitely a five-star read!” A.S.

“This is the best of the series, so far. Elliott has written a compelling story about a unique and diverse community of wolf shifters. The book brings romance, diversity, relationships, history, prejudice, mystery, and LOVE to life. The story is fast-paced, exciting, and ends too soon. Great read!” B.B.

“Mr. Elliott has crafted such a rich reading experience and a world so realistic that I can’t wait for each book to be published. I couldn’t put this one down! He has great attention to detail and wraps up all loose ends while leaving many possibilities for future storylines. Best series installment yet!” KC

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The Writing of FORBIDDEN MOON

This story was a labor of love, with the emphasis on labor! While it’s the third book I’ve published since the start of the pandemic, it affected Forbidden Moon far more than the others. Though I never contracted COVID-19, pandemic fatigue plagued my writing efforts from the beginning. Distracted by work issues, stress, and the disruption of life routines, my poor brain lacked the energy and creative juices needed for the project.

When I began, I fully expected the process to take about four months. Instead, it launched after eight and a half! There were serious plot issues to fix, doubts to overcome, and days where I couldn’t write anything at all. Bone tired and discouraged, I wondered if the manuscript would EVER be completed. When the glorious day finally arrived, the sky-high word count forced me to cut over eleven thousand words—and it was still too long. I came to the conclusion that Forbidden Moon was destined to be both BIG and beautiful!

Despite the challenges, the book contains some terrific ideas that were fun and exciting to write! It also included a number of firsts for the series:

  • first Black character
  • first human/shifter mating
  • first wedding
  • first visit to the Afterworld
  • first bar scene
  • first shifter-human conflict

It may not be apparent to the reader, but this story wasn’t supposed to have two bad guys. Originally, I intended for Dominic to be the heavy and then make sure he was suitably punished. Well, that idea went out the window about twenty-five percent of the way through, as I came to realize I couldn’t do that to him. I liked the character too much to bring down the full weight of wrath upon his head!

Instead, I cooked up a different but related evil character in the person of Russell. Doing so was no easy feat, and for several weeks the manuscript came to a standstill while I figured out how to integrate him into the story. I was terrified that I’d written myself into a corner and would never get out. That left two options: start the book over or abandon it altogether.

 I can’t recall now exactly how the solution came to me, but it finally did. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and got busy writing again. In the end, Dominic unintentionally caused a lot of trouble for the pack, but he goes on to find a better life. On the other hand, Russell became the sleazy character I needed to pull off the dangerous and dramatic portions of the story. Of course, he got his in the end.

As mentioned above, this book features my first Black character (RJ). He even made the cover! You may wonder why that’s such a big deal, but I was eager to present him realistically without my own cultural baggage and attitudes. So, I searched for information and found an informative blog post written by a lovely Black author. Her guidance gave me the courage to move ahead with the idea, and I wrote to tell her so. Coincidentally, her mother was also going through stage four cancer treatment, the same as RJ’s mother! I still consider this real-life connection to my fictional characters inspirational.

My favorite story threads were those relating to the romance of Jonah and RJ. I grew to love them as they struggled to build an unconventional relationship under difficult and dangerous circumstances. It was a fun challenge to create and implement an entirely new set of rules for the first shifter-human couple. They turned out to be sweet, funny, and smoking hot in the bedroom! While their future family situation remains unresolved for now, I expect to take care of that dangling story thread in a forthcoming book.

Introducing new characters is always enjoyable (even the bad guys), and this book has quite a few. I found Dominic’s story arc particularly satisfying, and my sassy waitress, Darlene, was a hoot to write! Walter’s nephew, Gray Claw, was another intriguing addition, though there wasn’t adequate time to give him the attention he deserved. Nevertheless, something tells me we’ll be seeing more of him in the future.

I must also mention the importance of recurring characters, as they are the backbone of the series. Readers tell me repeatedly how much they love the Gladstone pack and miss them between books! Honestly, I’ve come to think of them as real people and enjoy watching them grow and change with each new story. The tough part is choosing which ones get the limelight since no single volume could ever contain significant updates on all of them. It’s a somewhat arbitrary decision, but I try to give major characters a chance to shine, whether a little or a lot, in each addition to the series.

Lastly, I want to mention the creation of the book’s cover. This one turned out to be a collaborative effort between the author and the graphic designer. I always look for photos that resonate with me and send them to the artist for consideration. So far, none of my suggestions ever made the final cut. This time, she loved the image as much as I did, and it fit perfectly with the overall design of the series. After a few minor tweaks, it became not only my personal favorite but hers as well!

No one is more invested in a book than the author, and while I love each volume of the Gladstone Shifters, Forbidden Moon is a personal triumph over daunting circumstances. Is it perfect? No. Is it the best in the series? You decide. Am I proud of it? Yes!

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READING SAMPLE

Prologue

Kalamazoo MI, ten months ago

Country music played softly on the radio as Rascal James (RJ) Wilson made his way home from work. The duties of a DNR agent were many and varied—some more satisfying than exciting. Today’s victory brought both, along with a commendation from his superiors. He’d been in the right place at the right time and caught the poachers they’d been after for months. Along with ending the week on a high note, his mother’s text earlier in the day indicated she would be waiting for him at home, busy cooking up one of her delicious dinners.

She worked long hours in the salon which bore her name, and usually got home late. Though business was good, RJ couldn’t convince her to take time off for herself. She’d been feeling poorly of late, and he pleaded with her to slow down a bit. Perhaps his admonishments finally paid off. It would be a treat to start the weekend with a great meal and a bit of celebration with his Ma.

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Lottie Wilson watched out the front window as her only child arrived home. He looked dashing in his uniform, and her pride swelled at all he’d accomplished. First, a bachelor’s degree and now a good-paying job with the state, looking after the rich natural resources of Michigan. He bore a striking resemblance to his father at moments like these, though her son was only two when he died and never knew him.

Rascal became Lottie’s entire world, and together they’d met life head-on. The smart, industrious, independent young man she’d raised alone was poised for a prosperous future. She, however, wouldn’t be there to see it. The initial shock from her doctor’s diagnosis left her reeling yet unnaturally calm. She refused to spoil supper with sad news and locked away the tears until they’d finished their meal.

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Stunned, RJ simply could not be hearing what his mother just told him.

“Stage-four breast cancer? What does that mean, Ma?”

Like always, Lottie gave her son the unvarnished truth.

“Its already spread through my body, baby. Doctor Burroughs says I only have a few months—maybe until the end of the year.”

RJ reached out to hold his mother’s hand, tears threatening to spill.

“Can’t they do something? There must be some kind of treatment! We have to fight this, right?”

Lottie shook her head, a sad smile on her beautiful face.

“It’s too late, son. They could try a few things to prolong my life, but I would be very sick, and it might not help at all. This way, you and I have some quality time together and I can put my affairs in order. I refuse to leave a mess behind for you to clean up after I’m gone.”

RJ burst into tears, wrapping his arms around the one person he loved most in the world. She’d always been there—every scraped knee, school event, and birthday. She’d encouraged his love of nature, playing nursemaid to an endless string of bugs, birds, and stray cats. It was she who guided him through the treacherous teen years, gave him the dreaded sex talk, and taught him how to be a Black man in a white world. She’d worked hard to pay for his education and proudly placed a copy of his diploma in the salon for all to see. What was he going to do without her?

Lottie’s resolve eventually crumbled as they wept together, too distraught for words. Her biggest regret was leaving RJ all alone in the world. There were no other relatives to watch over him, rejoice in his successes, or share the holidays. No one special in his life to love him the way he deserved. She couldn’t change any of that, but there were things she could do to make his life easier.

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Within a week of her diagnosis, Lottie approached Rosa, her most faithful employee, with an offer to purchase Lottie’s Locks—the salon she’d built from scratch following her husband’s death. She also drew up a will and put Rascal’s name on everything she owned: house, car, investments, bank account, insurance. He’d have no trouble with lawyers, probate, or finding the cash for her funeral expenses. Afterward, with careful management, he’d have a comfortable life and a sizable nest egg.

On her good days, she cracked open the recipe box and taught RJ how to make his favorite dishes. They discussed nearly every subject under the sun while chopping vegetables, boiling pasta, and baking bread. Lottie talked about her youth and how she met RJ’s father, his service in the army, and the training accident which killed him. One day, she asked her son point-blank why he never dated or brought a handsome young man home to meet her. RJ blanched.

“How did you find out, Ma? I thought you’d be disappointed if I told you.”

Lottie laughed, patting his cheek.

“Honey, mothers know everything about their kids. I wanted you to come to me when you were ready, but we’ve run out of time. I don’t love you any less; I just want you to be happy. Promise me not to settle for second best. You deserve someone who will love you so much it hurts. He’s gotta be crazy about you from the start, and if you don’t feel the same, then it’s not meant to be.”

RJ wrapped her in a hug and kissed her cheek. In hindsight, his worst mistakes happened when he ignored his mother’s advice.

“All right, I promise, and I’m going to tell him all about you someday. Only the good stuff, of course…”

Lottie gave him a knowing wink.

“You do that, baby. You do that.”

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By late fall, Lottie’s bad days outnumbered the good, and RJ hired a full-time nurse’s aide to stay with her during the day. Eileen fixed meals, made sure she took her medication, and helped her bathe and dress when needed. RJ spent all of his off-hours at her side, reading her favorite books, fixing the chamomile tea she favored, and discussing current events.

As the pain and disability increased, hospice took over and Lottie slept most of the time. RJ dragged a mattress into her room so he could tend to her during the night. It broke his heart to see her waste away, in constant pain and often confused. On Thanksgiving Day, Lottie refused her pain medications so that she could speak to her son with a clear mind. The nurse called RJ to her room, reminding him to keep the visit brief and that it might be their last.

Mother and son shared a few fond memories, laughed a bit, cried some more, and prayed together. Holding her bony hand, RJ told her what was on his heart.

“I thank God for you every day. You’re the best Ma in all the world, and I’m proud to be your son.”

On December first, she slipped away in her sleep.

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Riverside Cemetery, about six months later

RJ made his way through rows of tombstones, respectful of where he stepped, carrying a bouquet of red roses. His mother’s resting place wasn’t too far off the road, in an older, quiet section of the cemetery. May flowers bloomed here and there amid immense old trees and soft green grass. RJ knew it well by now, having visited often to chat with his Ma and keep her up-to-date on his life. She was buried in a family plot between his father and Lottie’s parents—all dead before he was old enough to remember them.

Mindful of his uniform pants, RJ crouched down to lay the flowers on her grave, noting the inscription on the stone. Under her name and the dates, she’d requested a unique epitaph— “THE BEST WAY TO REMEMBER ME IS TO BE HAPPY.” A private message for her only child, etched in stone and on his heart. He was about to test the sentiment.

“Hello, Ma. I brought your favorite flowers today and some good news. Remember the job opening I told you about? The DNR accepted my application for a transfer, and I’m moving to a little place called Gladstone in the upper peninsula. I hear it’s beautiful there and full of wildlife. They even have wolves!

“This is something I need to do, Ma, and I know you’d understand. There’s nothing here for me with you gone, and up there I can put all my training to good use. I’ll come and see you if I can, but it’s an awfully long drive. It doesn’t matter, though, cause you’re always in my heart. I don’t think I’ll ever love anyone as much as you, and that’s a fact. I won’t forget your sacrifices either, and I promise to make you proud.”

RJ stood, murmured a quick prayer, and raised an open palm in silent farewell before turning to leave. She wanted him to be happy, and maybe in Gladstone he could build a life of his own making. The thought made him smile, and he remembered what his Ma always told him. “Baby, this world won’t give you anything for free. You have to make your own dreams come true.” It looked like this was his chance to prove her right.

Chapter 1

Friday June 4, Full moon

Jack and William made their way silently through the trees, accompanied by two security men in wolf form. The warm night air thrummed with the trilling of insects and the subtle rustling of wildlife. William carried a large, heavy blanket and a backpack with water and snacks. While in no particular hurry, Jack had anticipated this night from the moment he read the last entry in Hezekiah’s journals.

“Luna offers all True Elders one final gift. After departing this earth, you may yet speak with me at every full moon. Under its light, enter into a teaching dream state and call for me. I wish to know your joys and trials as you grow and serve our people. Bring your questions, and I will teach you. Do not tarry, Jack; only seek me out quickly and renew our blessed fellowship.”

In truth, once the shock wore off, Jack recoiled at the idea—feeling guilty for unknowingly keeping his beloved mentor waiting in silence for decades. Of course, the shame of having failed his own protégé wasn’t something he wanted Hezekiah to know either. Later, when he showed Evan the journal entry and shared his reluctance to face the man, he received a carefully worded rebuke.

“Jack! How could you even consider not contacting him? Do you seriously think he would blame you for something you didn’t know was possible until now? If he’s even half the man you claim, he’s also not going to judge you for one mistake in a lifetime of service. It’s obvious he considered you the son he never had and loved you dearly. Think about what it will mean to see each other again!

“I never imagined something like this, and can’t quite wrap my head around how it works. I always believed there was nothing after death. Do you suppose all shifters enjoy some kind of afterlife? And just think—he may have access to knowledge and memories going back to the beginning! I’ve already got a list of questions I want to ask, and you can’t tell me you aren’t curious.

“We’ll need to call Everet with the news. Maybe he can find out what happened to his own mentor. This is one of the most exciting things to happen since you got the journals back! No excuses, Jack. The full moon is coming up soon, and you, my friend, are going to become reacquainted with Hezekiah Matson!”

The memory of Evan’s passionate response carried Jack and the others to a small, secluded glade—the very one used by Ben and Evan for the Change Mate ceremony nearly two years ago. Jack’s desire for privacy and unobstructed moonlight were both found here, and as he did not know how long the process might take, it also gave William a comfortable place to wait and observe.

With encouraging yips, the security team left them alone in the moonlight to secure the perimeter. William set about arranging the blanket and supplies on top of the long, soft grass and turned to wrap his nervous mate in a warm hug. Jack kissed him thoroughly, cradling William’s bearded face in both hands.

“Until more is known, I prefer to meet him alone, beloved. I promise to share everything with you later, though it comforts me to know you are at my side.”

William offered a reassuring smile.

“I am understandably curious, but Luna’s gift was not intended for me. I am content to keep watch while the two of you talk. Don’t let me keep you, Jack; the poor man’s been waiting long enough as it is!”

Once Jack found a comfortable spot, William lay on his side to observe without touching his mate. Energized moonbeams lit the small glade, raising gooseflesh on both men. The curious tingling which followed only heightened Jack’s anticipation as he closed his eyes, sighed loudly, and initiated his half of the teaching dream while calling for his mentor.

“Hezekiah? Are you there?”

Instead of an immediate answer, Jack’s childhood home coalesced out of the mists, complete with the most minute details. Cabin, woodshed, garden, well—even the trees and grass looked exactly the same as when he last saw Hezekiah. Movement grabbed his attention as a tall, broad form rounded the backside of the cabin and into view. Startled, Hezekiah came to an abrupt stop when he spotted an old man rather than the child he’d expected.

“Why, Jack! What has kept you from me for so long?”

Overwhelmed, Jack stood speechless and shaking, uncertain how to begin. Hezekiah solved the problem by enveloping his protégé in a bear hug, scenting and being scented. Jack wept openly as Hezekiah drew back to look him over. Clearly, much time had passed, though in his mind, Jack remained a five year old boy and only moments ago he’d felt the bounty hunter’s bullet which killed him.

Hezekiah led the way to two weathered tree stumps next to the woodshed, shaded by a cluster of enormous pine trees. They’d spent many hours here, teacher and student, as Jack’s True Elder education unfolded. A pleasant place filled with good memories—suddenly fresh and vivid. Jack finally managed a smile as they sat, curiosity and joy replacing the earlier tears and uncertainty.

“I have missed you deeply, dear friend, and did not know you awaited me. How can this place exist? Where are we? Has my absence worried you?”

Hezekiah’s laugh warmed Jack’s heart.

“You were always full of questions, my boy, and it pleased me to answer them! My only regret was not meeting you earlier in my life. Ah, but those days are long gone, and there is no reason to tarry over them. It may calm you to know I was unaware of our long separation. Though time here has little meaning, I have retained my memories and continue to make new ones.

“As to the reason or location of this place, I can only surmise. No one else here knows the exact nature of our situation or how it came to be, though it is surely due to Luna’s power and purpose. For myself, I consider it a great repository of shifter knowledge, providing continuity for our people and always accessible to living True Elders.”

Jack took the conversation in a different direction.

“Do you know anything of my life?”

Hezekiah shook his head.

“My last memory of you is the day we parted. In the meantime, I have learned very little from the other True Elders here, as only a few knew you as an adult. Now, your visits are my only source of direct information. Why have you waited to meet with me? I left instructions for you in the journals.”

Jack’s scent revealed his disquiet, and Hezekiah wondered at its cause.

“When you did not return, my parents decided it was too dangerous to remain in New Mexico. During our journey north, the journals were lost before I could read them. The copies you brought to Gray Feather were kept by his family, and I only recently took possession of them. Had I known, I would have come to you at every full moon. Much has happened to our people, and to me, since you left us.”

Starting with their last day together in 1853, Jack began laying out the details of his life and the turbulent years which followed. Hezekiah soaked up the long account of triumphs and sorrows, asking pertinent questions about their people, the world, and how shifters fared in general. A few things he already knew from the last stragglers who joined him in this strange place, though Jack filled in many of the knowledge gaps.

When Hezekiah asked if he’d met his replacement yet, Jack grew uncharacteristically quiet. His muddled scent spoke of joy, pride, sadness, and shame. Jack told him the long story of Miguel, the fire at Gladstone, hiding away for over twenty years, and the day Evan sought him out in the far reaches of Michigan’s upper peninsula. Hezekiah listened quietly, eager to hear anything Jack wished to tell him. He did not, as Jack feared, take him to task for his shameful failure.

“Neither I, nor anyone here, is without blemish. We are flesh and blood beings who make mistakes. If Luna were looking for perfection in True Elders, the first one would have ended the experiment! If you seek absolution from me, I cannot give it. Tell me, Jack, did Evan forgive you? Are you on good terms?”

Jack grew misty-eyed again.

“He did, and yes, we are very close. We belong to the same pack at Gladstone.”

Hezekiah’s brows rose in surprise.

“If you have acknowledged your error and Evan has forgiven you, your guilt and shame no longer serve a purpose. Leave them in the past, Jack, where they belong. Now, what is this about two True Elders in one pack? How many others are there? How do you accomplish your work?”

Jack smiled as the tables turned, and he became the teacher for a while. He explained the whole story of their lost history following the purge and how they now used electronic devices to instruct, along with occasional travel. He also revealed the existence of Everet Kern, and the dreams which led him to believe there was at least one more True Elder somewhere.

“Everet’s mentor either failed to find him or refused to do so. Is it possible to see if the man is even aware of him? It may do Everet a world of good to make his acquaintance.”

Hezekiah pondered the idea, finally nodding his head.

“You have brought me an interesting puzzle indeed! I will inquire about both but cannot say if the information you seek may be found. Possibly, his mentor died before Luna made him aware of his replacement. If so, a connection may not be possible. I need your memories about Everet Kern and the dreams Luna has given you. Come sit over here while we transfer them.”

This possibility hadn’t occurred to Jack for some reason, and the request surprised him.

Like old times, Hezekiah threw an arm around Jack’s shoulder, pulling him closer. The teaching dream began at once. In moments, Jack shared all of his memories of Kern and the dreams regarding the unknown True Elder. Hezekiah released him, and Jack returned to his tree stump to continue the discussion, focusing on Jack’s personal life. It amused and pleased the man to hear that Jack and William were now the parents of twins.

“Astonishing! You are a far braver man than most. I never desired a mate, nor children, though you wound your way into my heart from the beginning. Tell me more about this pack of yours at Gladstone.”

With the living True Elder anchored on Earth, Jack’s mind and body inevitably grew weary after a time. The two agreed to meet again tomorrow and the next day while the moon remained full. There were, after all, a hundred and sixty-seven years of catching up to do!

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In the glow of Luna’s light, William dutifully watched over his mate in the throes of a teaching dream with a dead man. The whole idea seemed incredible and a bit macabre, yet Hezekiah would never have lied to Jack about something so important. William’s senses revealed further evidence that the two actually were in contact. Though Jack remained deeply submerged, his changing scent told a tale of its own, as did the tears. After a time, his mate settled down with a serene expression on his face. William watched and waited for several hours, eager to hear what Jack had discovered. Exhaustion eventually overtook him, and without knowing how much longer the meeting would last, he sent a quick text to Jonah with instructions to drop the twins off at daycare if he and Jack were late returning home. Now far past his usual bedtime, he lay down with the backpack between them and fell asleep.