Authors: Reese Morgan
Copyright © 2013 Reese Morgan
All Rights Reserved
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. No part of this book may be copied, reproduced, or distributed, either electronically or otherwise, without written permission from the author.
To my p
arents, who never stopped encouraging or believing.
Table of Contents
The late October precipitation was experiencing an identity crisis, unsure of whether to rain or snow. Ultimately, it decided to do both, effectively releasing small shards of ice that pricked painfully across her exposed face.
Wrapping her fingers around a solid tree, Hayden squinted past the frozen rain and stared stubbornly at the house across from her. Her toes dug into the soggy grass, boldly challenging the territory line in front of her.
Each time she got closer to the declared territory, shadows shifted behind the windows and faces appeared behind the parted drapes.
She’d been leaning against the thick tree for over an hour, embracing it for another two. Her clothes were damp and her skin was cold to the touch. The natural heat coming from her wolf was the only thing keeping her from retreating and seeking refuge inside a warm house.
And it was her sheer determination that kept her standing out here, day after day.
It wasn’t as if she had anything better to do. The rest of the pack was still mourning Devan’s betrayal and Hayden’s guilt kept her away from the others. She felt guilty for keeping silent about Devan’s true feelings for Joseph, but mostly, she felt guilty for not experiencing any remorse for losing Devan.
It was painful at first, learning that Devan had never considered her part of the pack, but Hayden eventually recovered. As female Alpha, her first priority was the pack. Moping over Devan was not a productive step in protecting the others.
Then again, Hayden supposed waiting outside someone’s house was just as unproductive as moping, but it was also the first step in improving herself.
Frustrated, Hayden pressed her cheek against the tree bark and prodded her toe closer to the territory line, finally sensing the resistance. She was as close as she’d ever get without officially crossing the Alpha’s border.
As if sensing the near trespass, the front door flew open and a dark-haired werewolf exited the house.
Hayden grinned smugly, keeping her toe in place while tracking the man’s hurried approach. There were a few spectators in the windows, their eyes inquisitive as their beta readied to confront the odd female that persistently returned to the pack house.
She exhaled in amusement, her breath a visible cloud of smoke. At least he remembered her name this time around, a vast improvement from the times he’d addressed her as ‘girl’
or worse, ‘pup’.
“I’d like to speak with Adolf,” she demanded levelly.
“Go home,” he ordered without acknowledging her request. And why should he? He’d heard it about a dozen times before. With a sharp jabbing motion, he gestured toward the end of the cul-de-sac where Cole’s house was located.
Wrenching her arms from around the trunk, Hayden stepped away from the barren maple tree and confronted Adolf’s beta.
Asher was wrong. That night, on top the floral shop, he laughed and affirmed that Adolf had no skills. He said the silver-haired Alpha was all bark and no bite. At the time, Hayden found it hard to believe that an Alpha like Adolf had no skill to back up his sharp tongue and even sharper insults.
As it turned out, her skepticism proved accurate. According to Blake, Adolf
have skills, skills Hayden desperately wanted for herself.
For days after the rogue attack, Hayden had contemplated the dagger Nicolas had thrown at her before his departure. The object felt foreign to her, perhaps more foreign than it had the night of the attack. She remembered tearing open the belly of her wolf opponent out of sheer desperation. While she had wielded the blade effectively, she had done so clumsily and without a shred of knowledge on the true mechanics.
Against a skilled opponent like Nicolas, she wouldn’t be as lucky. Things could have turned out a lot worse than they had, and next time, she may not be so fortunate.
And there would be a next time, she was sure of it.
“I need to talk to him,” she persisted.
He sighed as if he pitied her. “Adolf doesn’t want to talk to you.”
“He’s going to have to come out of the house sooner or later. Based on personal experience, you can only play
so many times before getting restless.” She glanced at Adolf’s home. “I’m an Alpha myself. I have every right to request a civil conversation with him.”
The beta shifted. He rubbed a hand threw his shaggy hair and grimaced.
Out of all the werewolves Hayden had ever interacted with, this man was by far the hairiest. Hair grew on the back of his hands and he even had sideburns that descended into a scruffy beard. But one of his most defining features, aside from the heavy-set brows, was his eyes. They possessed a particular warmth that seemed gentle and genuine.
She didn’t know the beta’s name, and she wasn’t inclined to ask anyone. No one from her pack knew she waited outside Adolf’s house on a daily basis and she wanted to keep it that way.
The unnamed beta cleared his throat. “Adolf says that if it’s important, Cole would have contacted him personally.” He shook his head. “I’m sorry, but if you continue coming here, we’ll have to notify Cole.”
Hayden’s face fell but she quickly veiled her frustration. “Then call him, I don’t care. I’m going to keep coming back until I talk to Adolf. I need to ask him something important. And if he took this town seriously, and the conflict with Nicolas seriously, then he’d come out and talk to me.”
The man stepped closer, leaving the shelter of his territory. His eyes were sincere as he gazed down at her. “Why don’t you tell me what you want to ask Adolf? I will relay the message for you.”
The offer was tempting, but Hayden quelled her immediate response. She was already stepping out of line by asking Adolf a favor. It was only common courtesy to ask him face-to-face, to let him know she was serious about her request.
“This is something I have to ask Adolf personally.”
The nameless male took note of her sincerity before turning his heel and retreating back to the house. “Then come back tomorrow,” he called over his shoulder. “And keep coming back. He’ll eventually cave in.”
Hayden slumped, exhausted and defeated. She crossed her arms over her chest to retain a bit of heat against the cold rain. Rolling her body around the circumference of the tree, she gloomily faced the empty house across the street.
One of the benefits of waiting outside Adolf’s house was that it was across the street from Shane Donovan.
The sweet-natured human, who had befriended Hayden when she first arrived in Albertville, hadn’t returned home yet. Two weeks ago, Falco, a recently exiled Alpha, had attacked Shane’s grandfather. Red Donovan had been in critical condition when they’d airlifted him to the hospital.
Hayden hadn’t expected Shane to contact her immediately, but the lack of news still worried her.
It didn’t help matters that Devan made an ominous prediction before she betrayed the pack. She claimed that if Red died from the wounds he sustained from Falco, then the Hunters would come to Albertville and seek revenge.
Unfortunately, her prediction
hold merit. Red was a retired Hunter who had seen the error of his ways. As a way to redeem himself, he agreed to protect the werewolves living in Albertville from other Hunters, namely his extended family. If the creatures Red protected attacked him —killed him— no one would be around to stop the threat of vengeful Hunters.
Despite the likelihood of such an event occurring, Hayden found it unlikely there would be enough Hunters to overwhelm such a large community of werewolves.
Pushing off from the tree, Hayden began walking back to the pack house, stubbornly dragging her feet. These days, going back home proved trying. Besides avoiding the pack’s mourning, Hayden also tried to elude Cole.
The tension and awkwardness they shared was painfully tangible. They were both aware of their status of life mates and they were both aware of Cole’s refusal to accept their bond. His first
priority would always be protecting the pack his father left behind. Pursing a relationship with Hayden was a liability to his duties. She was weak and vulnerable.
Admittedly, Cole never confirmed such a thing aloud, but his actions spoke volumes.
Hayden wanted to learn how to wield a dagger to better herself and protect her pack. However, a very small part of her also wanted to show Cole that she wasn’t like his mother, the very same woman he blamed for his father’s suicide.
Her thoughts were abruptly disturbed as she crossed into Cole’s territory. Addie stood on the front porch, flapping a dishtowel through the open doorway. The smell of burning food wafted across the yard and the smoke detectors sounded from inside the house.
“Oh good, you’re here.” Addie looked critically at Hayden’s soaking figure before thrusting a towel in her hands. “Go clear the smoke from the alarms.”
Hayden blinked and shuffled inside the house.
After Devan’s absence, Addie had grown more irritable. And despite her best efforts to remain unaffected, there were times she withdrew into herself and snapped at those around her. By now, the pack was accustomed to her behavior and never held it against her.
Snapping the dishtowel open, Hayden began fanning the smoke away from the kitchen. Glancing in the open oven, she spied the block of charcoal that might have once been a loaf of French bread. On the stove, a pot of chili bubbled and emitted smells that clearly made it inedible.
Movement near the doorway caught her attention. Just as the alarms quieted, she turned, spotting Fergus in the entrance to the kitchen, sipping from a liter of soda.
“Don’t worry, I got it covered,” she griped.
“I can see through your shirt!” Blake hollered eagerly from the living room. “Nice view.”
Hayden scowled into the living room, spying Cole’s beta lounging on the sofa and watching television. Dumbfounded, she turned back to Fergus, wondering why the two males hadn’t bothered helping with dinner or the alarms.
“It’s alright, Fergus.” She scrutinized the omega as he took another swig from the bottle. “It’s not like the rest of us wanted any of that.”
He belched and looked down at the bottle in his hand. “I was thirsty.”
She exhaled and turned off the stove. Another thing that concerned her was the growing animosity between Fergus and Blake. The two always hit it off, sometimes ridiculously well. A couple days ago, they’d been noticeably distant from one another.
Fergus hadn’t been himself, his moodiness causing him to fall short on his responsibility as pack omega. The same went for Blake, who seemed more hostile and distracted than usual.
Undoubtedly, the pack dynamics were crumbling. With the way things were escalating, her chances of mending the pack seemed slim to impossible.
Blake stumbled into the kitchen, deliberately avoiding eye contact with Fergus. He took one look at the burned food and ran a hand through his disheveled hair. “I’m going out.”
Fergus stiffened and pushed past Blake. “Me too!”
Blake, hardly playful, shoved Fergus away from the front door. “Don’t get in my way. You’re always following me around town like a lost puppy.”
Fergus snarled under his breath, surprising everyone within the vicinity. Hayden watched the proceedings closely, unsure how to react. She’d never seen Fergus as an aggressor. That role was reserved for Cole and Blake alone.
Blake scoffed. Even if Fergus was taller, the beta had more muscle and
twice as much dominance. “You want to start a fight?” He narrowed his eyes, his mouth ultimately curling into a smug smile when the omega lowered his head in submission. “I didn’t think so.”
As Blake turned to leave the house, Addie quickly intervened and blocked the door with her body. She crossed her arms sternly over her chest, her blue eyes bright and focused.
“You aren’t going anywhere. Any of you,” she ordered sternly. “When Cole gets home from work, we are going to sit down together for dinner.” With one last pointed look at the two males, she focused on Hayden. “Hayden, feel free to go upstairs and change your clothes.”
Looking down, Hayden noticed her bra was clearly visible through her shirt. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so humiliating if Addie hadn’t said it so cuttingly. It wasn’t as if Hayden had enough time to change
clear away smoke simultaneously.
“It’s not like you haven’t seen me naked during the full moons.” Gathering her dignity, Hayden shouldered her way past a leering Blake and up the stairs.
“Nah, we just pretend we don’t… for Cole’s peace of mind…” Blake trailed off snickering, but fell silent without Fergus, his usual sidekick, backing him up.
The comment grated on her nerves, and to sour her mood further, she heard Cole arrive home as soon as she stepped on the upstairs landing. Addie seemed determined to have the pack sit down together for dinner, which meant Hayden couldn’t take refuge in her room tonight as she usually did to avoid the Alpha.
Throwing off her shirt, she grabbed a dry one and wrestled it on. As her head peeked through, her eyes landed on the dagger resting on her nightstand. Her fingers curled around the hilt, intending to study it, but a deep surge of frustration welled up inside her. She drove the dagger into her nightstand, imbedding the blade into the wood.