Authors: Terry Bolryder
© 2015 by Terry Bolryder
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
Cover design by Clarissa Yeo at
ucas Vale strolled casually
into his family dojo. It’d been a long time since he’d visited. Too long, probably. But the only things that waited for him here were bad memories and a past he couldn’t escape.
In the back of the dojo, his younger brother Asher was striking a punching bag.
The dojo looked like many he’d trained in over the past years abroad, but was different for one key reason. It was shifter dojo, where he and his werewolf brothers trained other shifters in martial arts and self-defense.
Lucas came up to the desk and rang the bell loudly.
Ding, ding, ding
. Asher’s punches abruptly stopped, and he paused for a moment, holding the bag to keep it from swaying wildly on its chain.
“Lucas. I could smell you a mile away. What brings you here, old man?” Asher asked, letting go of the bag and walking across the mat toward him.
“Just in town for a few days. Figured I would stop by,” Lucas replied with a shrug.
“Really? Great job letting us know. Did you send an e-vite or something?” Asher replied disdainfully, walking behind the desk into a back room. The sound of gloves being pulled off followed, and the dark-haired man soon reappeared, pulling on a torn T-shirt that referenced some bygone metal band.
“Watch your mouth. Don’t make me kick your ass,” Lucas replied.
“Ha, that’s the Luke I know.” Asher came from around the back of the desk, and the two men shared a firm handshake, then went into a quick but spirited hug.
Their relationship had been tenuous when they were younger. Lucas and his brother Jordan were the sons of their father’s first wife, who had died when they both were very young. Not long afterward, their father remarried an alpha female, and Asher was born. Though they shared everything, the fact that Asher was full alpha and the others were not had always felt slightly awkward. And though Lucas had somewhat come to terms with it, Jordan, their middle brother, never had.
But all three brothers had always shared this together—MMA, the dojo, the love of physical discipline and honing their bodies to be perfect fighting machines.
“Do you have time to spar for a minute before class starts?” Asher asked.
“I think I’ll pass,” Lucas replied coolly.
“You’re not getting soft on me, are you now?”
“Is that a challenge?” Lucas said, starting to loosen his tie. “It sounds like it to me.” The tie came off with a gentle slide, one smooth motion.
“Hey, I’ve heard you haven’t had time for training with all that promoting and business crap you’ve been doing,” Asher retorted, shrugging smugly.
“Well, I can’t have my kid brother forgetting his place, now can I?” The white jacket slid off and was tossed onto a neighboring coat tree. Then the perfectly pressed shirt, button by button.
Taking the hint, Asher moved from the waiting area in front of the desk. The anticipation in the empty studio was tangible. It had been years since either had fought the other, and Asher wasn’t going to waste time getting his brother back in the ring before he disappeared again.
Lucas’s shirt was off now, revealing a perfect set of abs. Lucas might have been a businessman, but he was no desk jockey. The thrill of training, the thrill of fighting, had driven him from childhood to adulthood.
“Not bad. At least I see you haven’t gotten pudgy on me. But can you do anything with it?” Asher taunted from the middle of the mat-covered floor.
“All in good time, brother,” said Lucas as he leaned over, broad shoulders and powerful hands gingerly untying his shoes and pulling off his socks, then kicking them carefully to slide under the hall tree where his coat and shirt rested. Standing back at his full height again, Lucas popped his knuckles and stretched his muscles, a pre-fight habit he’d acquired from seeing so many humans do it. His hulking pecs and biceps finely attuned, awakening from their slumber since the last time he’d had a real fight.
“No gloves?” Asher asked, tilting his head.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course not,” Lucas replied.
Shifters had supernatural healing, and even shifters of the lowliest bloodlines could recover from grievous wounds with proper treatment. Bruised or bloodied knuckles wouldn’t be a problem for them.
Finally ready, Lucas walked out onto the floor until he was face-to-face with Asher. Asher was slightly shorter and stockier, with dark eyes where Lucas’s were a vivid emerald green. But anyone looking at the two brothers would know they were related.
Both squared off, circling slowly. Asher was light on his feet, dodging and feinting to see what his brother would do. Lucas was cool and collected.
And then the relative quiet in the dojo was interrupted by the sound of another voice, familiar and deep. “Having fun without me?”
Sitting in the corner of the room, balancing on two legs of a rickety old metal fold-up chair, was their middle brother Jordan. He must have snuck in the back during their fight. His deep reddish-brown eyes watched them in amusement, his dark auburn hair was tied back in a short ponytail. He sported multiple piercings and a shirt with a skull on the front that was about two sizes too small for his considerable pecs.
Their pro-MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter brother had always had his own style.
“Jordan? What the hell?” Asher blurted out first.
Jordan leaned forward on the balancing chair, and the two hanging front legs hit the ground with a clack, popping him onto his feet. “Nobody told me it was family reunion time,” he said.
Lucas dropped his guard and walked toward Jordan, hand outstretched. The brothers clasped hands and then embraced for a moment. Though they both were involved with the MMA circuit, they weren’t often in the same place at the same time.
“How have you been?” Lucas asked, looking at Asher as if neither of them could believe Jordan was home.
“Well enough,” Jordan replied with a shrug. “Have you heard what’s going on in the shifter community?”
“No,” Lucas said as he started to button his shirt back on.
“How long were you sitting there watching?” Asher asked, coming up to shake Jordan’s hand.”
“Not long,” Jordan said. “I thought I’d speak up and save you the embarrassment of losing in front of me.”
The jab wasn’t missed, and a slight anger could be seen burning in Asher’s dark eyes. But then he moved out to the matted floor and began to move kicking bags out of the way so the floor would be clear.
“So what’s going on in the shifter community? Besides the usual bullshit,” Lucas said.
Jordan grinned slightly. “I thought you would’ve heard before anyone. Given who it involved.”
A cold feeling moved through Lucas, telling him he wasn’t going to like this much. “Who does it involve?”
“Your old girlfriend. Lily. That was her name, right?” Jordan said.
Lily had been so much more than just a girlfriend. Once upon a time, she had been the only one for Lucas. But that was so long ago.
“What about her?” Lucas said, trying to sound uninterested.
Jordan eyed Lucas doubtfully. “Apparently they’re holding an alpha tournament. One full-blooded male from basically every family will be eligible to compete to take her as mate. Like physically compete. It’s barbaric, even by our standards.”
“Ugh, that’s insane,” Asher said from across the room.
Lucas just stood there, stunned. He’d been looking for her for years and finally given up, and now a bunch of douchebags got a chance at being with her simply because of their blood? He knew alpha female wolves had gotten increasingly rare, and wolf shifter families were more and more desperate to ensure their pure lines, but had it really come to this?
“Someone should probably represent the family. What do you say?” Jordan said dryly.
“Not even remotely interested,” Asher chimed in.
“I wasn’t asking you,” Jordan chided. Asher just rolled his eyes.
“I’m obviously not invited,” Lucas said. “Not full alpha, only half, remember?”
“How could I forget?” Jordan said sardonically. “Anyway, just thought you might want to know. Do with that what you want. I’m headed out for food. You want anything?”
“No,” Lucas said.
“All right, see you later.” And then his enigmatic middle brother disappeared through the back door.”
“You know, I actually think I remember some invite coming in the mail, but I don’t think I even opened it.”
Lucas took a calming breath. “Do you still have it?”
Asher bit his lip and walked over to the desk to rifle through papers. “Maybe. Wait, here it is.” He handed it over.
As he did, a picture of Lily fell out, and Lucas swept it quickly up into his hands. Hypnotic brown eyes looked out at him from a face framed by luscious black curls, perfectly complimenting her warm brown skin. Her smile was shy but gorgeous, tipped up at one side like she was keeping a secret. Damn, she still took his breath away.
He put the picture in his pocket and began to read the letter that came with it. Anger flooded him. She really was being offered as a prize. His Lily. And he wasn’t even invited.
Which made sense since her family had left town years ago just to separate him from her.
He took a calming breath and let the paper flutter out of his hands. There was nothing he could do.
Asher walked over and scooped it up. “So are you going?” he asked. “Looks like there’s a party to kick the whole thing off.”
Lucas shook his head. “As I said, not invited. It has your name on the invite, not mine.”
“Well, you know…” Asher said, a slight grin twitching at the corners of his mouth. “They haven’t seen us in years…”
Lucas’s heart jumped. Asher was right. Would they know it was him if he went as Asher? “Are you sure?”
Asher nodded. “I’m positive. I wouldn’t go anyway. Why would I want to compete with a bunch of tools when I could be here running the dojo?” He eyed Lucas. “Plus, I’m pretty sure you’d kick my ass if I tried.”
Lucas frowned. Would he? Lily wasn’t his anymore. She hadn’t been in a long time, and that was only when she was young. What if she’d come to see things like her dad and simply wanted the most powerful and prestigious mate she could find? He guessed the only way to find out was to go to this thing.
After all, in the years since she’d seen him, she’d never attempted to contact him, and he’d searched for her for ages.
“I think you should go, dude. For closure,” Asher said.
Lucas nodded. He knew it was a risk. He didn’t even have to enter the tournament. He just had to see her one more time, know she was all right, and say goodbye.
“Let me know how it goes,” Asher said.
Lucas gave his brother a quick one-armed hug and then strode out of the dojo to his rental car. It was time to get ready to see the love of his life for the last time.
As if he could ever feel ready for that.
ily Mason sighed
as she rested against a cool marble column in her family’s ballroom. She was partially hidden from view, didn’t desire any attention from the ridiculous males who’d shown up for one of the worst human rights violations in the past few years.
Well, it was fine according to ancient shifter laws, so apparently human rights didn’t matter.
She was unmated at twenty-five and thus completely fair game for something like this.
Her father had always tried to run her life, always been determined to find the best match for his perfect, full-alpha blood daughter. Alpha females were rarer and rarer in the shifter world, and her father was more determined than most to use it to his advantage.
She’d known when he’d ripped her away from the man who was possibly her mate years ago. Her heart had been broken, but for her sister, she’d stayed with her family and done as she was asked.
She’d known that at some point, she’d be forced to take a mate. She just didn’t know it would be this bad.
An alpha tournament. She was a prize for an alpha tournament. Full-blooded alpha males would be coming from everywhere to literally fight for her hand. It wasn’t the least bit romantic to have people beat each other to a pulp for you.
Her lips quirked slightly at that statement. Fighting had been sexy to her at one point. The man she’d loved had been a fighter, but he wouldn’t be here tonight. He was only half alpha, and besides, he’d probably never forgiven her for disappearing on him when they were supposed to run away together.
But he didn’t realize she had more than herself to watch out for. If she had disappeared, her father had made it clear her younger sister would be the one to take her place. And Lily just couldn’t do that.
But if she could have been selfish, she’d have done it for Lucas. The man had been a walking dream from the moment she’d met him, when he’d taught her martial arts for self-defense. Tall, strong, and talented with wicked green eyes that put emeralds to shame and dark, gorgeous hair that waved rakishly around his face.
They’d been teenagers, both seventeen, but it hadn’t changed the depth of the feelings between them. She was sure she would never feel anything like that again. She just hoped he’d found a way to move on and be happy.
She sighed and smoothed her blue silk dress out in front of her, preparing to step out and meet her suitors. If she didn’t, her father would come looking for her, and she didn’t want that. Lily’s mother was probably up in her bedroom, feigning sickness as she usually did when she didn’t want to deal with something. Over the years, Lily had taken over running the household and caring for her sister, who was hopefully studying in peaceful quiet somewhere else in the house.
Lily would have to do this alone. She knew there was no chance of rescue, so she might as well meet it head on. But as she stepped forward into the ballroom and into the light sparkling from the chandeliers, she felt her knees weaken. There were men all around in tuxes and suits, with every color of hair and skin and eyes. All looked at her with wolfish curiosity as she passed them, searching through the crowd for some sort of anchor. Even her father would be a good place to go at this moment.
Luckily, some of the alphas seemed to have brought family members or dates. That seemed a little wrong, but it at least meant the crowd wasn’t completely full of men, and that made it a little less intimidating. She made her way into the crowd, ignoring the murmurs that followed her, the gazes that snapped to her. She hated the attention but knew there was no avoiding it. She was a prize now, not a person. Only one person had ever seen her for who she was, and that person was probably far from here.