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Authors: Heather Long

Desert Wolf

BOOK: Desert Wolf
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Desert Wolf
Heather Long
Desert Wolf

, Alpha of Sutter Butte, leads the most ruthless and dangerous pack in the United States. Misfits, castoffs, and forgotten wolves, they rose to create a pack more than a century ago in utter defiance of the order of the day. Seen as pitiless and cruel, Cassius wants more for his people than a yearly bloodbath as they fight for a better spot in the pecking order. To change his pack means to change himself, and he will find rebellion on all sides, not to mention from his own defiant heart.

ovvan Stark
, Omega of Delta Crescent, lives a cherished, beloved life in the center of her pack—a delicate and hard won balance. Though she is not the only Omega, she is the most experienced with the tremors of pack upset when power shifts from Alpha to Alpha. When her Alpha approaches her about Sutter Butte’s request, Sovvan considers the matter for several months. While she might hold within her the key to helping the Sutter Butte Alpha, the undertaking could very well kill her.

ccompanied by a single Hound
, Sovvan begins a journey to help Cassius rebuild the foundation of his pack, but first she will have to transform him…

© 2015 by Heather Long

by Virginia Nelson

Cover Art by Scott Carpenter

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.

ISBN: 978-1-310-00086-7

Series So Far

Wolf At Law


Ryan & Tiffany

Wolf Bite

Mason & Alexis

Caged Wolf

A.J. & Vivian

Wolf Claim

Owen & Gillian

Wolf Next Door

Tyler & Claire

Rogue Wolf

Salvatore & Margo

Bayou Wolf

Lincoln & Serafina

Untamed Wolf

Dylan & Chrystal

Wolf with Benefits

(Found in Romancing the Wolf)

Matt & Shiloh

River Wolf

Brett & Colby

Single Wicked Wolf

Giovanni & Murphy

Sign up for Heather’s Newsletter.

U.S. Pack Territories
Sutter Butte Wolves

assius Lucera del Alba
– Alpha
, Sutter Butte – Considered brutal and dangerous, Cassius is the undisputed leader of the most vicious pack in the U.S.

Johnny Blaze 
– A Hunter and unofficial second to Cassius, Johnny doesn’t believe he owns the position because Claire left undefeated.

Laurel Jacobs 
– A Hunter and not as high in the hierarchy as she would like, Claire inspired Laurel to control her own future.

Bianca Jessup 
–As healer, she stands outside the bloody battles for dominance, but even she tires of the constant death and mayhem.

– Hunter, the wolf leads several men and was loyal to Claire prior to her departure from Sutter Butte.

Gil Tanner –
A Hunter, and one of Trask’s men.

JoJo –
A Hunter, and one of Trask’s men.

– A Hunter, and one of Trask’s men.

– Human housekeeper for Cassius in Summit.

– Wolf shopkeeper within Summit.

Maddy Shannon
– Orphaned wolf child.

– Wolf juvenile, Summit

– Healer, Sutter Butte attached to one of the families.

Cyril Quintero
– The representative of the Quintero family group, a powerful faction within Sutter Butte.

Jose Garcia
– The representative of the Garcia family group, a powerful faction within Sutter Butte. Father of Andreas and Juan.

Haake –
Family group in Sutter Butte.

– Family group in Sutter Butte.

Delta Crescent Wolves

ovvan Stark
– Delta Crescent Omega
, she accepts the request of Sutter Butte to travel into their territory to help reshape his pack.

Faust St. Just
– An Irish transplant, the Hound of Delta Crescent, blood-oathed to Sovvan, he will die before he allows anything to happen to her.

Serafina Andre-Buckley
– Alpha of Delta Crescent, she remains skeptical of sending her Omega into such a dangerous situation. Mated to Linc Buckley

Linc Buckley
– Formerly of Willow Bend, the Alpha’s mate acts as both her sounding board and best friend.

Etienne Andre
– Second of Delta Crescent, brother of Serafina.

– Second Omega of Delta Crescent.

Wolves of Willow Bend

laire Webster Buckley
– Mated to Tyler, Claire spent several years in Sutter Butte, fighting her way to the position of second. Her desire to return to Willow Bend trumped her desire to challenge Alpha Cassius. Now a Hunter in Willow Bend, Claire is also training Alexis to fight.

Tyler Buckley
- Mechanic and one of triplets, Tyler excels at fixing up junkers and helping troubled kids find their footing. Mated to Claire.

Mason Clayborne
—Alpha of Willow Bend, mate of Alexis, father of Melissa, son of Andrew and Melissa Clayborne (both deceased).

AJ Buckley
– Second of Willow Bend, brother to Tyler and Linc. Mated to Vivian.

Dear Readers

elcome to Desert Wolf
. As I sit here considering what to say about the book before you, all I can think is:
hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!
Where Hudson River shares some similarities to Willow Bend, Sutter Butte is a darker, far more dangerous world.

Cassius is a powerful character and he consumed me from the first sentence on page one. He didn’t let go, even at the end, I was reluctant to say goodbye to this journey. Sovvan also proved to be a vibrant, brilliant wolf. Then again, I might be biased.

Welcome to the next chapter in the
Wolves of Change

any kind regards


Chapter 1

eat rolled
in waves from the blacktop of the old highway. Around him, the desert sprawled in its painted glory, seemingly melting into the horizon where it kissed the sky. The colors streaked past him as he accelerated, blowing past the old trading posts and bypassing the interstate with its smoother surface and promise of civilization in the distance. If one sought to journey through the decades, the old highway east of Holbrook was the place to start.

Sweat slicked his back beneath his leather jacket and the motorcycle vibrated between his thighs. Clocking over a hundred, he barely noticed the machine’s growl echoing his wolf’s. Cassius Lucera del Alba, Alpha of Sutter Butte, squinted to catch sight of the town he sought ahead.

Town was a generous description for the collection of ramshackle structures—of which a filling station with a decrepit market attached and a lone bar were clearly detailed. Time hadn’t forgotten the town, it had left it in the dust doing a hundred and sixty and never looked back. If the location had a name, no map detailed it, not even Google. The poor bastards didn’t even have a ghost to call their own.

Though they might when he finished.

He didn’t slow until he reached the main drag, all eighty-five feet of it, and parked his bike in front of the bar. A handful of vehicles were scattered amongst the cracked pavement and gravel. Three he recognized, two he didn’t. Like the bar, the cars were in sad shape and far more popular in earlier decades. Killing the engine, he dropped the kickstand and slid off his baby. Road dust coated her paint and chrome. With a stroke of his gloved hand over the seat, he promised her a bath later.

Leaving the bike, he strode toward the building. No one moved outside, but one wolf stood inside the filling station. He was a smart wolf—he’d spotted Cassius, yet didn’t reach for a phone or make any move other than retrieving his newspaper and flipping it open.

Inside, cool air rushed over his sweaty face like a sweet kiss. The scents of stale beer, body odor, remnants of the blood spilled throughout the years, and fear stained the experience. The population of the bar—easily a dozen wolves, though Cassius scented at least four more in the back—glanced up from their places scattered around the room. Three played pool, four others huddled around a card game, while the rest sat in various spots, including two drinking at the bar. The couple in the corner paused, though her hand stayed down his pants. The bartender—a tall, broad wolf with a balding pate and a world-weary expression—raised his eyebrows in silent inquiry.

“Beer. Cold,” Cassius said, and the bartender nodded. A moment later, he set a tall bottle of Corona on the weathered bar top. The sides frosted and a hint of vapor escaped the top. Condensation formed almost immediately on the sides, slicking along the glass in rivulets.

Stripping off his fingerless gloves, Cassius then set them on the bar. Next, he shed his jacket. The old leather moulded him perfectly after the many years he’d spent wearing it. Only after setting it on the bar next to his gloves did he peel off three one hundred dollar bills and lay them next to the bottle. The bartender didn’t say a word as he took the bills, tucked them into his pocket, then locked his register and exited through the double doors behind the bar.

Leaning against the aged wood, Cassius swept the room with his gaze. “If any of you are still sitting on your asses, disobeying the direct orders I sent last week…then when I finish this beer, I’ll kill you.” He didn’t raise his voice. Shouting accomplished nothing. Yelling indicated the battle was lost before it began.

Chair legs scraping across the floor splintered the silence. The couple in the corner disengaged. The she-wolf grabbed her purse as she stood. Boots striking the floor punctuated her exodus. No sooner did the door slam shut behind her than the four wolves playing cards toss them down, abandoning their game. The men muttered, but they divvied the pot, then bowed their heads to him one at a time before hurrying out.

Tipping the bottle up, he took a long pull of the cold drink. It soothed his parched throat. One of the pool players threw down his stick. One of the wolves tried to stop him with a hand on his arm, but he shook it off. Then like the other wolves before him, he hurried out the door.

From nearly twenty to only ten—behind him feet stomped on the stairs followed by another door slamming. Make that eight. One of the upstairs wolves strode into the bar, and stood in the center of it. Surprise filled his scent at the emptiness in the room. The others waited, their attention divided between Cassius and Finch.

Stupid fucking name for a wolf.
After another long pull from his beer, and Cassius was three quarters finished. One by one he met the gazes of the wolves around the room. The smarter ones lowered their eyes immediately, the dumbasses fought to hold his gaze—even Finch.

Focusing on him last, Cassius studied him. Fresh beads of sweat began to trickle along Finch’s cheeks. The wolf swore, then stomped out and slammed the door with enough force, one of the hinges cracked.

Then there were seven.

Seven wolves who’d gathered in the desert in direct contradiction to his orders to appear at the landing. He’d called his wolves to him. Most came. Some—like these dumbasses—refused. Reaping was still another six weeks away. They all knew it, but they hadn’t come.

Cassius didn’t forgive disobedience. Anxiety with hints of aggression spiked in the sourness around him spoiling his appetite. One last swallow of beer awaited him. The wolf to his left rushed him as he lifted the bottle.

His beer ruined anyway, he smashed the bottle into the wolf’s face. The man’s roar ended in a scream. Slamming his booted foot into the other wolf’s knee, he listened to the satisfying crunch. Not wasting time enjoying the sound, he hooked his arm around the wolf’s neck then twisted and silenced his pain-filled screams. The pool players came next, wielding their sticks. He blocked one blow, ignoring the reverberation of it shattering on his forearm.

A throat punch to the second wolf dropped him, and he head butted the first. A third wolf rushed him. With a snarl and extended claws, he sliced his throat. The wolf went down with a gurgle. Whirling, he seized a stool and shattered the wood as he beat the first one. Bones snapped and the wolf cried out. Another wolf ran for the door, but Cassius had given them their warning.

He flung the stool leg, and it struck—jagged end first—into the fleeing wolf’s back, which penetrated his rib cage. The wolf was dead before he hit the floor. Completing the turn, he faced the last two wolves.

The first one went to his knees. “Cassius…I’m—” His last words ended on a gurgle as Venosky, the only other living wolf in the bar slammed a knife through his compatriot’s throat. Blood sprayed from the wound and the wolf went down.

Cracking his knuckles one at a time, Venosky braced himself. “I won’t go down easy.”

“Good.” His wolf roused to the scent of true battle. Unlike his friends, Venosky didn’t rush him. The wolf held his ground. One of the downed wolves reached for Cassius’ leg so the Alpha slammed his foot down on the downed man’s throat. The crunch told him the bones snapped.

Anticipating Venosky’s opportunistic nature, Cassius caught his incoming fist and twisted. The arm broke, but he wasn’t done. Pivoting, he slammed his elbow into the other man’s gut then turned and caught him by his throat. Lifting the wolf from his feet, Cassius stared at him.

“I’m sorry,” the other wolf managed to push out on what few wheezes of his air he’d been allowed.

“Not good enough.” Cassius squeezed, then tore out his throat. The wolf crumbled to land on the floor atop his friends. After sweeping a glance over all the downed wolves. Cassius listened—no other heartbeats. The bartender made good on the silent order—he’d left the building. Stepping over the bodies, he retrieved their phones and checked them.

Sure enough, each one had a message about the incoming wolf to their territory and the suggestion that she not reach her destination.
Fools. Every fucking one of them.
He sent a message to the same loop via the captured phones.

Your Alpha knows.

Dropping the devices, he retrieved his jacket and gloves then stepped out onto the porch. He was halfway through a cigar before his Lieutenants arrived—the three wolves closest to the top of the food chain—the three most likely to face him at the Reaping if they claimed the right.

Johnny Blaze. Laurel Jacobs. Monty Spence. Johnny dismounted his bike first, and his nostrils flared. “Goddamn, boss. You couldn’t wait for us to get here?”

“Don’t be so slow next time.” He blew out a stream of smoke. The three wolves were as close as he came to trust. They wanted to challenge him. They wanted to control Sutter Butte, but they wanted everyone to know they had a legitimate claim.

Laurel laughed. Johnny and Monty superseded her in rank and both glared at her. She ignored their disdain and slid off her bike, more catlike than wolf. Strolling toward him, she swayed her hips in a provocative invitation he ignored. “It takes a while to burn a body, you know.”

“Then you’ll be busy.” He jerked his head toward the bar. “Clean it up. Check on the others in town.” Her expression tightened at the dismissive order, but she obeyed.

Monty grunted and followed her. Johnny checked his phone at the ding and glanced at him. Meeting the younger wolf’s gaze, Cassius smiled slowly and the other wolf paled.

“I didn’t tell anyone.”

“I know you didn’t, Johnny. I also know you didn’t tell them not to be stupid.” Grinding out the cigar, he descended a step. The other wolf backed off, his bravado gone and his head tilted, throat bared. “You think if they get themselves killed, you’ll have an easier time at the Reaping. You think if they sabotage the plan, it might inconvenience me in some way and give you an easier time at the Reaping.”

After narrowing the distance between them, he caught Johnny’s chin in his hand and forced the other wolf to meet his gaze.

“Don’t cross me, Johnny. I’m not in the mood.”

“Yes, Alpha. What do you wish?” The wolf caved. If Cassius released him he had no doubt Johnny would bare his belly. A vicious fighter, Johnny hadn’t grasped the full benefits of loyalty. Then again, none of his wolves had. They were too busy fighting for position, yet they’d forgotten what they were fighting for. Only one wolf had grasped what Cassius desired for his pack. Only one had been willing to meet his eyes, then proved she was exactly what his pack needed.

And she left.

The others had to learn. If they couldn’t learn, he’d have to bring them to heel.

“Make it clear their plans are over. If they refuse, kill them. My
is law. If they don’t like it, the Reaping is in six weeks.”

“Yes, Alpha.”

Releasing him, Cassius went to his bike. “Help the others. Then return to Summit. Secure it.”

Relief and gratitude twined in Johnny’s scent as he raked his hand through his hair. “Yes, Alpha…where will you be?”

Straddling his bike, Cassius merely stared at him. The other wolf bowed, his whole body lowering in deference. Yeah, he didn’t think Johnny had the right to an answer either. Engaging the ignition, he smiled at the rumble of his bike. He had a lot of miles to cover. Hopefully it would give his temper time to cool.

Johnny’s phone dinged again and he glanced at it, then at his Alpha. “They aren’t giving up.”

“Then they’ll die.”

Accelerating away from the freshly blooded ghost town, he headed east. Apparently he had more wolves to kill.

ovvan rested
her bare feet against the dashboard and checked the nail color as she painted her toes. The luxury SUV was overkill in her opinion, but Sera had offered her a limo and a full escort all the way to the Sutter Butte border. “Not sure I like the red.”

The deep scarlet definitely looked flashy against her dark chocolate skin. Then again she had a half-dozen bottles with her, so she could change her mind. Her nails were the palest shade of pink. They almost seemed white until the sun hit them. Maybe she should do that for her toes—or she could add a pattern?

“No opinion?” She glanced sideways at her ginger-haired companion. The Irishman migrated to Delta Crescent years before and applied to Serafina’s father for a position in his pack where he earned his bones, so to speak. As a Hound, Faust could have had his choice of assignments, yet he’d chosen Sovvan the same year Serafina won the battle of ascension.

“Luv, since you’ll do whatever you want and argue any preference I show, I will not offer an opinion.” The colorful lilt of his Irish accent continued to dance in every word he spoke. Some twenty plus years of living in New Orleans, yet he still sounded like he’d just stepped off the boat.

Laughing, she switched bottles to test the purple on her other foot. “You make me sound difficult.”

“Are you after taunting me or trying to distract yourself?” Her Hound knew her all too well. Of course, they’d lived together for over a decade. He was such a Felix to her Oscar—the pack’s odd couple—yet she would have no other Hound to look after her security. He oversaw a team of eight at home, a team they’d left there when it came down to traveling to Sutter Butte. She wouldn’t take the other Hounds from their families or risk all the issues of dominance that many senior wolves created when dealing with a volatile foreign pack.

“Who says they have to be mutually exclusive?” She spared a glance at the landscape rolling past. They’d left behind the trees and gentle swell and roll of the land for open emptiness. God, it was so utterly boring. “Are we—?”

“—still in Texas?” The corner of his mouth quirked into a half-grin. “Aye, and after another fifteen minutes, when you ask again, we’ll still be in Texas.”

. Neutral territory. Serafina claimed a portion of the eastern corridor where it kissed the border with Louisiana. During Katrina, they’d evacuated a large chunk of the pack into Texas, venturing only as far inland as absolutely necessary. No one claimed the Lone Star state. Not Willow Bend, not Sutter Butte and not Delta Crescent. No one.

BOOK: Desert Wolf
12.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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