CHAPTER REVEAL – A Wish For Us by Tillie Cole

CHAPTER REVEAL – A Wish For Us by Tillie Cole

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Chapter Reveal – The Hideaway by Rosalind Abel.

CHAPTER REVEAL
The Hideaway
by  Rosalind Abel  
A Lavender Shores Novel
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THE HIDEAWAY KU PROMO


Lavender Shores’s resident tattoo artist, Connor Clark, looks the part—six foot six, musclebound, and covered in ink—and most definitely doesn’t blend in. Grafted into the Bryant family as a teenager to escape his abusive father, the Bryants saved his life, but Connor has never truly felt a part of the founding family royalty. And if his heart’s desire were revealed, it would betray everything the Bryants have done for him.


Micah Bryant was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He’s always had everything he ever wanted—save the one he desires most. Even moving to New York City for a few years didn’t dampen his passion. Not that Micah had expected it to. He’s known his destiny since he was nine years old, the moment it had walked through his door.


After years of longing, years of secrets and stolen moments of passion and love, Connor weakens enough to allow the town to see how he feels, and let the Bryants know his love for Micah is anything but brotherly. But no sooner had the decision been made than Connor’s biological family returns and shatters it all. Still, Micah holds on to the belief that their romance was written in the stars, but maybe he’d been wrong all those years…


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ARE YOU READY TO READ THE STEAMY CHAPTER?
Four
Connor

My entire performance had been rigged, and even so, my heart rate was barely coming down. Fortunately, I’d had the forethought to put all my clothes in a separate classroom from the one all the other guys were using as a changing room. I could crawl under a desk and hide for a few hours and still need to be alone for the next day to recover from having the entire town’s eyes on me. It was proof enough that I wasn’t truly a Bryant. I didn’t have one ounce of my mother’s showmanship and ease in the limelight. Of course, Gilbert didn’t either, and he did share her genes.
I retrieved my shirt that I’d tossed on the teacher’s desk when I’d gotten ready—which had only consisted of taking off my shirt, shoes, and socks and then pacing the room for half an hour, trying to work up the nerve to go on stage. I started to pull on my shirt, then noticed the name at the top left of the whiteboard. Ms. Westfield. Pausing, I glanced around the classroom. How had I not noticed before? I suppose it showed just how nervous I had been. This classroom had been nearly as much my salvation as the Bryant home. School had never been easy—though it became a little less stressful once I lived somewhere I was actually wanted—but here in Ms. Westfield’s English class my future began to fall into place. Instead of taking notes on Shakespeare like the class had been instructed, my pages were full of doodles and designs. That was the case for all of my notebooks, no matter what the subject. When she noticed, Ms. Westfield asked me to come see her after school that day. I’d expected a lecture, additional homework, some sort of punishment. Instead she pored over my drawings with me, going on and on about how amazing they were. I’d looked back at those notebooks since, and most of them were a far cry from amazing, but she either saw something in the work itself or in me, maybe both. From that day on, she figured out a way to incorporate the drawing aspect to every one of my assignments.
Stepping around her desk, I moved to the whiteboard, picked up a black dry erase marker, and began to draw.
I lost track of time, lost track of my nerves and worry, as I transformed the whiteboard into a collage of Persian cats—Ms. Westfield never had less than three living with her at any one time—and tattoo-style script of various Shakespeare lines I recalled. When I was done, I wrote a simple thank-you near the bottom of the board. I didn’t sign my name. She would know.
Standing back, I took in my handiwork, letting the years mingle and dance together. I’d been so grateful for my new life. For my friendship with Gilbert that had led me to being brought into his family, for Ms. Westfield, for the town itself. I’d thought the worst was over, and in many ways, it was. I was away from my father’s physical violence and my mother’s religious mental abuse. I no longer had to hide or worry about who I was. I hadn’t seen my biological family in years and each day that passed made it all that much better. Life could only get better from there on out. But a new sort of complication was headed my way, one that would make the following years incapable of truly being at peace or ever satisfied.
What I would give to be in that sweet spot between escaped abuse and unending guilt and desire.
I needed something nicer for Ms. Westfield than a whiteboard full of Persian cats and fancy lettering. Maybe she’d like some tattoo work done. She had to be in her sixties by now, but she was always a cool lady.
“Ms. Westfield and her cats. She was one of my favorite teachers, but the constant trail of cat hair she left behind drove me a little batty at times.”
I jumped, startled at the abrupt sound of Micah’s voice, but I didn’t turn around. Nor was I surprised. Speak of the devil. “Your ability to walk into locked rooms when people are trying to be by themselves has never been your best quality.”
Micah didn’t answer as quickly as I thought he would, nor with his typical charm or bravado. The pause made me worry I’d hurt his feelings, and I tried to push that guilt away.
His footsteps sounded closer, but I kept my focus on the whiteboard. Desire and frustration left me frozen.
“What do you want me to do, Connor? You’ve been avoiding me ever since Charlie’s.”
“That’s only a week. After being forced to sit and have dinner with you and your boyfriend, I think I’m entitled to a week alone, don’t you?” Goddammit, why was I angry? Even more so, why was I letting my voice betray that fact? I turned and found him sitting on one of the desks, his legs splayed, his hands resting between them, fingers curled over the edge. There were no lights on in the room, but the wall of windows allowed plenty of moonlight in. I’d give anything if I could see Micah just once and he not be the most beautiful man in the world. It would really help.
Actually, it probably wouldn’t.
There was a twitch of a smirk on his lips. Clearly I hadn’t even come close to hiding my reaction to him. “That shitshow at Charlie’s wasn’t my fault. Moses was the one wanting to eat with us.”
I bristled instantly. “Don’t blame Moses.”
“You know what—” Micah started to hop off the desk, temper flashing over his face, but then he shook his head and settled back to his original position. He didn’t finish his thought, but he let out a long breath.
Fuck, I was being an ass. Obviously Micah blamed Moses for lots of things. But I also knew Micah well enough to be certain he fought that impulse every second of every day. We were both aware I was the one to blame. But the minute Moses had walked into my life, I’d latched on to the excuse he’d provided. In my defense, it was the right call. The only call. It still was. “Sorry, Micah. You’re great with Moses, and you’ve done more for him than anybody.”
He didn’t speak, but studied me for a little bit. His gaze traveled from me to the whiteboard, a different sort of smile playing on his lips, and then he sighed, the tension gone. “So, where is the mini-Connor tonight? I figured this would be way too much gayness to throw at him.”
“You think?” I couldn’t hold back a derisive snort at that. “He’s babysitting Shawn Carlisle’s kids.”
“I can see him being good at that. Not to mention, Moses isn’t afraid of hard work.”
“That is true. But yes, he’s still thrown off by seeing two guys hold hands in real life. This would’ve been too much, way too much. Probably enough to send him running back to our stupid family for fear of hellfire overtaking the gym.” I’d had a similar reaction years ago, and I’d been younger, had more of a transition to it all. Moses was nearly an adult and had been plunged in headfirst.
“You know they’re building the youth center close to where Adrian’s and my farm is, right?”
I nodded. Just a little north of Olema, close to Inverness, close to my family—no, not my family, but close to the ones who shared my name and had given me life. The ones I’d managed not to speak to or see for nearly two decades. “Yeah.”
Nothing else needed to be said. Mom’s location choice had been obvious. Choosing the spot right next to the place that had given her me and now Moses.
Silence ticked by for a few moments, and when Micah smiled, a whisper of warning tingled through me. I could never figure out exactly what it was—the way his lips moved, some glint in his eye—even after all these years, but my body had. That switch in Micah’s demeanor, letting me know if I didn’t run as fast as I could, things were going to end up how I didn’t want them to. No… they’d end up exactly how I wanted them to, just not how they should. “So, Pete Marks, huh? I didn’t know you were a daddy chaser.”
Despite myself, I laughed. “I think that would make me a grandpa chaser, don’t you?”
Micah shrugged. “Point taken. Still, you’re not going to find a better guy than Pete Marks. You could do a lot worse.”
How many times had we talked about dating or fucking other people, sometimes to convince ourselves it was over, at other times simply trying to hurt each other. Teasing about dating Pete was ludicrous enough to be pleasant. “Yeah, I was relieved he won.”
“Oh, come on.” Micah rolled his eyes. “We both know you set that up in advance, though I don’t even want to know how many tattoo sessions you are going to have to do to pay for that.”
I wasn’t going to try to deny it. “And every one of them will be well worth it.” Micah’s blue eyes studied me, and though there was Ms. Westfield’s desk between us I grew aware of how close we actually were. There were only two options, and the one I wanted most was to leap over the desk, tackle him, and fall to the floor. I chose the second, allowing a cruel tint to my words. “The guy who bought your boyfriend sure was attractive.”
Micah stiffened.
I could’ve stopped, but I didn’t. If I did, things really would end up the way I wanted them. “Seth with him right now? Getting his time over with?”
“No.” His whisper was cold, angry. “He went home. I told him I was going to help the family take down all the decorations.”
A variety of mean things flitted through my mind. Pointing out that Seth should’ve offered to stay and help—though I knew him well enough to bet he probably had, or asking if there was someone else waiting at home. Instead I chose to attack Micah. “Oh, so you lied to him.”
He didn’t even flinch. This game was an old one, which we both played. “I’ll help. As soon we’re done here.”
It seemed the game wasn’t working as well as it used to. I placed my hand on the top of Ms. Westfield’s desk, more to ground myself and ensure I stayed where I was as opposed to actually providing support. I tried again. “Still, I bet the date he has will be something. The two of them would be quite a pair.”
The second the words left my mouth, I realized why the game wasn’t playing out as I’d intended. Why Micah wasn’t pissed and yelling at me. Reminding me that I was the reason for my own jealousy. That it was my fear and weakness that kept me miserable. Though my words were harsh and accusing, I was tempting him, taunting him.
Fuck.
Even though I knew it, was suddenly aware of it, I couldn’t stop. “Didn’t it bother you, watching him sell himself to the highest bidder?”
Micah slid off the desk and slowly walked toward me. “Did it bother you? Having to arrange for Pete to buy you when it’s me you want?”
He was at the edge of Ms. Westfield’s desk, a couple more steps and he’d be pressed up against me. It was enough to wake me up. Enough to give me the strength I needed. “Don’t do this, Micah. You’re dating Seth. He’s a great guy. He deserves better than this shit.”
“We are open, you know that. Everyone knows that. That’s the only way Seth does relationships.” Micah closed the distance and came to a stop less than six inches from me. “Quit worrying about Seth.”
One more try. “One of us has to.”
“Shut the fuck up, Connor. You don’t get to play this both ways. The only reason I’m with Seth is your fucking fault.”
The anger in Micah’s voice brought a wash of relief and regret. It worked. Crisis avoided.
Micah took the final step, then with a quick motion raised both his hands to my chest and pushed.
I stumbled back, crashing into the whiteboard, dry erase markers and erasers bouncing off their metal tray and falling to the floor. He’d never hit me in anger before, but maybe this was good. The beginning of the end. We could finally finish this. It would be a relief to have it done, a relief to have him take out his fury on me. I deserved it. I’d stolen so many years from him.
He followed me in a rush, and I closed my eyes, preparing for the strike, welcoming it. Micah’s hands smashed against my chest again, but this time they stayed there for a moment and then began to move down my stomach.
I opened my eyes in confusion, not seeing Micah’s furious face inches from mine like I expected. I glanced down, following the feel of his hands over my body, watched in mute surrender as he lowered himself to his knees.
I’d failed. I’d given it my best, the game was over, and I’d failed.
Micah didn’t look up, didn’t hesitate to ask for permission, just unbuttoned my jeans with a flick of his thumb and finger, then pulled the zipper down. In less than a heartbeat, he had my pants around my knees and my cock in his mouth.
The wet heat of him surrounding my hardness was nearly as known to me as my own hand, and the sound of his groan as he tasted me had reached my ears countless times before, and both drove me wild. I clenched my fingers in his silken dark blond hair and held tight, instantly thrusting into his mouth, fucking his full lips hungrily. It had been so long, so very long. Nearly a year since I felt him.
Nearly a year, we’d done so well. And we were fucking it up.
I let go of his hair and sidestepped, pulling free from his mouth, his teeth scraping against my cock at the sudden motion. “No, Micah. We can’t do this. We can stop right now. It won’t fuck up anything.”
As Micah stood, he pulled his polo over his head and dropped it to the floor. “I thought I told you to shut the fuck up.”
As familiar as the feel of his mouth on me, the sounds of his arousal, and the sight of his stunning shirtless body were, the emotion in his words was new, and it gave me pause.
The game had worked. He was furious. Angrier than I’d ever heard. But beneath the growl, his desperation called to me. The hurt he’d endured over our separation screamed out to my own, and I had no choice but to answer.
I crashed into him, wrapping my arm around his neck and crushing our lips and bodies together.
Micah dug his fingers into my back and then managed to grip my skin. It hurt. But God, I didn’t care, I just needed to feel him again. No matter what he was doing to my body, as long as his hands were on me, as long as his lips were on me, as long as his skin touched mine.
There was no clarity in the sensations, everything was a tangle of arms and legs, tongues and lips. In the midst of the chaos, the rest of our clothes disappeared, and then I was the one on my knees, taking Micah’s long thick cock into my mouth and down my throat. The salty tang of him only ignited my suppressed hunger.
Everything vanished, the town, my past, my present, the classroom. Moses and Seth were no more. Micah was no longer my brother. Our matching tattoos identifying us as family faded from our skin.
It was just Micah. Just me.
He was just the man I loved and lusted over for years, the man no one else had ever been able to measure up against. The one who set my heart on fire and my soul at peace.
And I needed him. Needed him to fill me. Feel his release over my tongue, down my throat. To take him inside of me, to own him, possess him.
No impulse of giving him pleasure or making it last cut through my frenzy. I skewered myself over his cock, shoving him deep into my throat, gagging, and then doing it again, never pulling back for breath or thought.
“Oh, that’s how I want it.” His large calloused hands gripped my hair as he fucked into me. “Fuck, yes, Connor. Take my load.” Micah held my head still, stopping my rhythm as he turned loose, causing me to gag more. “Yes. Yes. Take it.”
Then he was spilling down my throat. His cries from above me mingled with the sound of me trying to catch my breath while swallowing him down, refusing to lose a drop of him.
He thrust, and then thrust again. His swollen cock throbbing in my mouth; each surge of come bringing me closer to my own edge, though I hadn’t even touched myself. A final thrust and he pulled free.
I looked up at him from my kneeling position, panting. I expected to see him slack against the desk, spent. Maybe guilt already rising. It wasn’t. If anything, the heat in his expression had become an inferno.
“Stand up.”
I did, gripping the edge of the desk, my legs feeling wobbly.
Micah kissed me, sweeping his tongue over my mouth, groaning at the taste of his release. His hand snaked between us and encircled my cock. He swirled his hand, using his fingers to cover my erection in the slick precome. He broke the kiss, and met my gaze. “Fuck me.”
God yes. Fuck, yes. There had not been a night in the last eleven months when I hadn’t craved being inside of him, when I hadn’t needed his heat, desired the way he writhed against me. Nothing and no one else had been able to come close to satiating that need.
But a blowjob was one thing; fucking was a different thing entirely. “Micah, we—”
“I said, fuck me.” His anger hadn’t abated, though it was overpowered by the cadence of his desire. Micah shoved the rolling chair away and hopped up on Ms. Westfield’s desk. Placing his arms behind him, he supported his weight, leaned back, lifted his leg slightly. “Connor. Fuck me.”
As many times as I’d been inside Micah, as many times as I’d seen his body, explored every inch and crevice of him, this was new. I’ve never seen him take that exact position, and definitely not in this manner. And once again, the years folded together and came full circle. This room where such an important part of my future had been revealed. It only made sense Micah would offer himself to me here.
I attempted to shake the thought away. Micah wasn’t my future. Couldn’t be.
“Connor.” Micah’s sharp cry brought me back to the moment, and I met his gaze. “I need you inside of me. I can’t take it another day.”
Neither could I.
He lifted his legs a little higher, giving me room to step between, but then another thought seeped in.
“I don’t have a condom or lube.”
Micah rolled his eyes. In the middle of his heat and lust, he actually rolled his eyes, causing the love I felt for him to sing even louder than my desire for his body. “Quit acting like you don’t know me, Connor. You know I don’t need lube, especially considering how much you’re already leaking.” I started to speak again, but he cut me off. “And since when do we use condoms?”
The hurt behind Micah’s last words was evident. I wasn’t sure if he’d attempted to hide it or not. He was right. We had never used condoms. Never needed to. We were always safe and protected with everyone else. But things changed in the last year. Neither of us had ever had an actual relationship before.
“What about Seth?”
Micah wrapped his legs around my waist, hooking his ankles behind my back. He almost sounded annoyed. “What about Seth?”
“You guys have been together for months. You’re still using condoms?”
He flinched, and there was another flash of anger mingling in the hurt. “Of course we are. Don’t be an idiot. It’s always been you. It will always only be you.”
Fuck. I kissed him, shoving my tongue deep into his mouth, groaning as his body arched against me, and while one of his arms circled my neck holding me to him.
He was mine. He had always been mine. I wrapped my arms around his back, digging my fingers into him, unable to get him close enough.
Micah managed to reach between us with his free hand, swept the precome over the head of my cock, and lined me up to his entrance.
It was all I needed. Still kissing him, I thrust forward, slowly, just enough that my dick slipped in. He hissed into the kiss and his ass clenched at the head of my cock. I paused for a moment, allowing him to catch a breath through his nose, and then I felt him relax. Slowly, I pushed the rest of the way in. I whimpered at the feel of him, the heat, the tightness, the pleasure as he squeezed his ring of muscle around my shaft. When I was buried deep inside of him, I broke the kiss and began to rock, watching his face, loving the pleasure that washed over his expression as I filled him.
“God, I’ve needed you, Connor.” Micah unhooked his ankles and spread his legs a little farther, giving me more room.
I increased my speed, still holding him tight against me. “I love you.”
He smiled. “Duh, you fucking moron.” His words were staccato, coming out in staggered breaths matching my thrusts.
I couldn’t help but laugh.
Micah’s grip around my neck tightened, and he pulled my head down so his lips were next to my ear, and his stubble scraped against my jaw. “Come in me.” And then he bit my earlobe.
Two more thrusts and I let out a cry of my own, and came. I arched back, pulling my ear from his mouth so I could bury myself deeper inside of him. It seemed I hadn’t orgasmed in decades. Thrust after thrust I came, again and again. Feeling like every ounce of tension and suffocated desire was spilling out of me.
At last I slowed. Micah glanced down between us and chuckled. “Holy fuck, Connor. I could feel that. You’ve been saving up that load.”
I had been, though I hadn’t realized the moment I’d been saving it for.
He looked back up at me, his smile returning. “I love you too, by the way.”
I kissed him, and then slowly pulled myself free, making sure he was steady on the desktop. The desktop…. Somehow I’d managed to forget where we were. I glanced toward the classroom door and through the small rectangular window looking out on the dark hallway. My God, we’d been idiots. Anyone could’ve seen or heard. “Fuck.”
Micah looked over his shoulder, then back at me, his expression serious. “Didn’t think about that. Nobody saw.”
Maybe nobody did, but still.
Micah shrugged. The fucker actually shrugged. “Well, we decided we were going to tell people before Moses showed up. Maybe it’s time.”
He might as well have dumped a bucket of ice water over my head. I took a step away, shaking my head. “No, Micah. This isn’t a joke. We can’t do this again. We’ve never been so careless. And of all times.”
“I don’t think you’re giving your nephew enough credit. Or the rest of our family. It really won’t be the end of the world.”
“You don’t know that.” I did, though. I could feel it. The world would crumble, quite literally. We would lose everything, including each other. I took another step back, then swiped my jeans off the ground and began to put them on.
“Connor, stop.” Micah slid off the desk and touched my arm. “Don’t run. Not this time. Please.”
I managed to get the jeans zipped up but not buttoned. “Sorry. This wasn’t right. Not right at all.” I moved away from him, snagging my shirt, then my shoes and socks before I headed across the classroom. “It was my fault. I’m sorry.” Before I got to the door, I glanced back. Micah stood there beside the desk, beautiful and naked, shoulders slumped in defeat and his expression a cold mask. “I’m sorry, Micah. I really am.”
Then I was out the door and rushing down the hallways of my old high school, away from the gym and the voices of Micah’s and my family as they deconstructed the circus.
Maybe that’s what I was to the Bryant family. The little sideshow freak. The one who’d corrupted the baby of the family.


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Rosalind ABEL PROFILE PIC


Rosalind Abel grew up tending chickens alongside her sweet and faithful Chow, Lord Elgin. While her fantasy of writing novels was born during her teen years, she never would have dreamed she’d one day publish steamy romances about gorgeous men. However, sometimes life turns out better than planned.
In between crafting scorching sex scenes and helping her men find their soul mates, Rosalind enjoys cooking, collecting toys, and making the best damn scrapbooks in the world (this claim hasn’t been proven, but she’s willing to put good money on it).
She adores MM Romance, the power it has to sweep the reader away into worlds filled with passion, steam, and love. Rosalind also enjoys her collection of plot bunnies and welcomes new fuzzy ones into her home all the time, so feel free to send any adorable ones her way.


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Chapter Reveal: FRACTURED SILENCE by Carrie Ann Ryan

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Carrie Ann Ryan’s FRACTURED SILENCE releases April 18th…but we couldn’t wait that long! You can get a sneak peek at the first chapter of FRACTURED SILENCE below!

 

 

Fractured Silence (1)

About FRACTURED SILENCE

The Talon Pack continues with a dark secret that could shatter the future of the Packs, or save them all.

Parker Jamenson is the son of three Packs, the sole mediator between every Pack in the United States and Europe, and…he’s dying. He knows he doesn’t have much left in him and is in desperate need of a mate. But with the new and unyielding changes thanks to the Moon Goddess, he might not have as much time as he thinks.

Brandon Brentwood is the Omega of the Talon Pack and the youngest of his family. He’s not only one of the famed triplets; he’s also the most secretive. There’s a good reason for that, however, and when a shocking revelation meshes the past and present in a very unexpected way, he’ll look to not only Parker but also a disgraced human to save them all.

Avery Montag knows she’s the daughter of a traitor and doesn’t have much to give the wolves in the way of atonement. But she’ll do everything she can to pay for her father’s sins and find a way to end the war between the humans and the wolves.

When the three turn to each other in a time of unrest and for vastly different reasons, temptation burns and seduction beckons. Only, the past, present, and future are never as solid as they seem, and the path the trio thought to travel may just vanish before they’re ready.

Add FRACTURED SILENCE to your Goodreads list here!

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Get a Sneak Peek at the First Chapter of FRACTURED SILENCE

Chapter One

Before

 

Parker Jamenson woke with a start as someone knocked on the door to the small cabin he’d been staying in for the duration of his visit to this particular European Pack. Using his wolf’s senses, he inhaled deeply, noting that the person on the other side of the door was one of the younger wolves that had shown him around when he’d first gotten there. He hadn’t met most of the Pack, as the people of the den hadn’t been too keen on his presence. He’d only just fallen asleep in the armchair fully clothed, exhausted from the trip.

He’d already spoken to the Alpha about coming together with the Redwoods in times of war, but the damn man hadn’t been too eager to reveal his existence to the world. All Alphas were required to meet with Parker as the Voice of the Wolves because he was goddess-touched, but that didn’t mean they had to listen. Hell, most of them would rather bury their heads in the

sand and ignore what was going on around them. And while his own Pack might be older than most in the United States, the European Packs were ancient and set in their ways. No one wanted to deal with the fact that the humans were aware of the shifters’ existence, but Parker knew that soon, no one would have a choice.

He opened the door after a moment and nodded at the young woman on the other side. “Tatiana.”

She smiled coyly at him before licking her lips. He could scent her wolf brushing up against her skin, wanting touch, but Parker wasn’t interested. He just wanted to get this meeting with the elders over with and head back home. Her long, honey-colored hair had been in a braid when he’d first met her, but now it looked as if she’d brushed it out over her shoulders and back so it cascaded over her curves. She’d also put on a long, white, flowing dress instead of the tan one she’d worn when he’d shown up.

And though she looked to be his same age and her power felt even younger, she dressed as if she were some maiden from a bygone era on the hunt for a knight.

Parker would not be that knight— no matter how much those eyes of hers flashed yearning.

“Parker,” she breathed. “I’m to take you to the elder circle for your last meeting before you go.” A pause. “It’s a shame we didn’t have more time to get to know one another while you were here. I understand you leave in the morning, but perhaps the meeting won’t take long, and I can show you more of the grounds. I’m sure your wolf could use some exercise.” She smiled. “And though it’s not a full moon, there’s just enough moonlight for the run to be… thrilling.”

He held back a chuckle that wanted to spill out since that would have been rude. She wasn’t hiding anything she wanted, and while he might have appreciated that on another day, he just wanted to go home. Besides, his wolf wasn’t interested in the woman in front of him, and while that might not matter for a quick night of heat, he didn’t have it in him to ignore his wolf tonight. Maybe I’m getting older, and in need of a mate, he thought. Or maybe he was just tired and missed his family. Either way, Tatiana wasn’t for him.

“I’m afraid I will have to get ready to head out after the elder circle.” He held back a frown at the crestfallen look on her face. They hadn’t said more than a few words before this, and though he was a new wolf to her, he wasn’t the only healthy adult male wolf around.

“I understand,” she said softly. “Follow me, then.” She turned without another word, but he didn’t miss the extra sway to her hips— an invitation if he were to change his mind.

Keeping his thoughts to himself so he wouldn’t inadvertently hurt her again if he were to change his mind— which he wouldn’t— he followed her through the winding, dirt paths of the den toward the oldest part at the edge of the center. It made sense that this was where the

elders chose to live— just slightly outside the most used part of the den for privacy but not near the edge in case of an attack. As elders, they were to not only be respected but also protected.

Tatiana left Parker with a nod, and he bent to walk under a low-lying branch so he could make it to the elder’s circle. Encircling the firepit were seven older wolves of various sizes— three women and four men. At his entry, they all looked up as a unit and stared at him.

If he hadn’t seen his own elders do this before, he would have been creeped out. Elder wolves were those who had either lost their mates long ago or had never been mated, so they didn’t have a connection to the new world or the Pack except through their bonds to the Alpha and those in the hierarchy. After living for centuries, some wolves could no longer deal with the drastic changes of society and chose to cloister themselves. Many of the wolves held immense power on their own because of their age and used that strength to protect the Pack in any way they could.

Parker looked back at the elders respectfully. Though each of the wolves had at least two centuries on him, none of them looked a day over thirty-five. Wolf genetics never ceased to amaze him and he’d been born a wolf.

“Parker Jamenson, of the Redwoods,” the woman closest to him said after a moment. “Welcome. I am Aurora. We’re pleased you were able to take the time to meet with us before you head out on your journey home.”

Parker bowed his head in deference. “I will always meet with my elders, Aurora. To ignore those who have lived the past is to ignore what the future may bring.”

She smiled softly at his words and gestured for him to sit down before introducing him to the others. He kept their names in the back of his mind, but he knew that it was Aurora who led here, and she would be the one to speak.

“We’ve asked you to join us because we believe we have something that once belonged to your people. Your line.”

Parker’s eyes widened. “The Redwoods?” How did something of theirs find its way here?

“Not that line.” Aurora’s eyes went gold, her wolf rising to the surface. “The line of the first hunter. You are the son of the son of the son of the line of the first hunter, are you not?”

Parker froze. Not many people knew that his family came from that line. In fact, he’d only recently learned that his ancestor was the first human to be made into a wolf by the moon goddess as a punishment for what the man had done to defenseless prey. She’d forced the man to become the thing he killed for sport, compelled him to share a soul with that of a wolf. From there, new wolves were made, and shifters were born.

His uncle, Logan, had dealt with horrible side effects from that past, but other than his strength, Parker hadn’t really thought about what that meant. Logan had been far too aggressive even at a young age, and it had taken him years to learn how to fully control his wolf. He, like Parker, had also had to learn how to use their strength wisely when they’d been mere pups and still had to deal with some bursts of overextension some days. The family bloodline was diluted over time, and Parker had had more recent issues with it thanks to his birth father. His mother might be of the line of their honorable ancestors and campfire stories, but his birth father had been one of nightmares. He’d never truly met the man as he’d been young when Corbin died, but he knew the stories. Knew that the former Central Alpha had killed countless in his quest for power.

He pushed that thought out of his head, as he knew just letting it in would enrage him.

“I’m of that line, yes,” he answered after a moment. No need to lie as he had a feeling these wolves knew far more than this. “What did you find?” he asked.

Aurora nodded at one of the male wolves after Parker had spoken. The male stood up with shaky hands, a large box wrapped in cloth clasped between them.

Aurora took it gently from him. “This box is made of the woods of our people— Redwood, Aspen, Oak, and so forth. It is said those first Packs, along with the first ever, came together to make it.”

Parker frowned. “What’s in the box?”

“Open it and see.”

Though his wolf had stood at attention as soon as they’d mentioned the box, it wasn’t until Aurora unwrapped it— keeping her hands on the cloth rather than the wood— that his wolf howled.

He frowned. “I’m not going to open something I haven’t looked into with wolves I don’t know. I’m sorry if that’s disrespectful, but that just doesn’t seem like a good idea to me.”

Aurora’s eyes flashed, but he had a feeling it was more out of respect than anger. “It’s good you’re cautious. That will help.”

“Help what?”

“There is a prophecy,” she said after a moment. He blinked.

“A prophecy?” Why did he feel like he’d suddenly jumped into an old Indiana Jones movie?

Aurora’s eyes unfocused as she spoke in a deeper voice.

“A wolf of three Packs can break their will or unite them all.

“Once united, the Packs will reveal…

“If broken, the Packs will fall…”

Parker’s wolf rushed to the surface at her words, and he tried to blink, attempted to reach out and catch the woman as she fell forward after she’d finished speaking. Only he felt as if he were moving slower than usual, his mind not quite where it should be. His hand brushed the top of the box, and it slid to the ground, opening on impact.

He looked down, his head going fuzzy, his mouth dry.

An ancient dagger, or perhaps the tip of a spear, rolled out of the box amidst a dust cloud that slapped at his face.

“The weapon of the first hunter,” Aurora croaked before passing out completely. The others surrounded them, yet he could do nothing but try to keep himself upright.

Parker tried to speak but couldn’t force his mouth to work. Instead, his body broke out in a cold sweat, and he fell face-first to the ground.

The last thing he thought about before passing out was his family.

They weren’t here to help him.

No one was here to help him.

He was all alone.

And it was his fault.

Again.

 

About Carrie Ann Ryan

Carrie Ann Ryan is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary and paranormal romance. Her works include the Montgomery Ink, Redwood Pack, Talon Pack, and Gallagher Brothers series, which have sold over 2.0 million books worldwide. She started writing while in graduate school for her advanced degree in chemistry and hasn’t stopped since. Carrie Ann has written over fifty novels and novellas with more in the works. When she’s not writing about bearded tattooed men or alpha wolves that need to find their mates, she’s reading as much as she can and exploring the world of baking and gourmet cooking.

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