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“How many?" I snarled.

There was a beat of silence. And then Ryan responded, his response colored with confusion, “So far... only three.”

Three? Hardly a task force of substance. What were they up to now?

“Are you sure?” I demanded. And then added, “Can you identify their rank?”

“Yeah,” he replied shortly, his voice constricted with tension. “Their Alpha, the Beta and the Delta.”

Nightshade’s three highest ranking wolves?

I spun my head around to strategically assess the current situation in the room. We held the upper hand. All of the enemy wolves were restrained in silver zipties. But who knew how long that would last now that new wolves were in play? I needed to thin the herd—remove the potential for these wolves to reengage in the fight against us. “Eliminate the Nightshade wolves now!” I ordered.

There was no hesitation. Instantly, razor-sharp claws elongated and every throat was ripped out. Blood poured onto the dingy carpet.

I strode toward the door. “Ever. Oliver. Follow me!”

By the time I grasped the handle and jerked it open, they were right behind me. Stepping out onto the back deck, the rickety boards beneath our feet creaked with stress. My eyes zeroed in on Ryan to my right. He had taken defensive positioning behind the picnic table, his Glock ready, waiting for my command.

Behind me, both Ever and Oliver released the safeties from their weapons, metal sliding against metal, the telltale sound of lethal force readied to engage.

“Hold your fire,” I gritted through the pack mind link.

Three wolves walked slowly across the wide clearing. Right away, I noticed Alpha Cade’s unusual hand placement. His elbows were bent by his sides, his hands slightly raised in the air, palms open toward me. Beta Nash and Delta Lane held similar positions. If he wanted a fight, walking out in the open with his arms raised was certainly not a well calculated plan.

I held my stance, knees slightly bent, my spine curved with my shoulders rolled forward, ready to attack at the slightest provocation. My Wolf came forward into my eyes to assess the situation for himself.

When they reached twenty feet from my location, Alpha Cade stopped and without a word, dropped to one knee. His Beta and Delta assumed a similar position behind him. All of their heads lowered.

What the hell was this?

I stepped down off the porch.

“We don’t want a war,” Alpha Cade’s head came up, but he remained on one knee.

Scrutinizing every tiny body movement, I search for any hint of deception as I walked toward them. They remained purposefully vulnerable, waiting for me.

When I was two steps away, Alpha Cade spoke tightly, “I did not condone their actions. I didn’t even know about it until a few hours ago.”

If he were telling the truth, it made sense that he came with only his top ranking wolves. Not too many wolves to imply any aggressiveness behind his presence and the three wolves necessary to surrender. Still, I wasn’t taking anything at face value. “And what would you have done if I hadn’t already won here today? Would you have joined in their fight?”

“You wouldn’t have lost,” he responded simply. “Not with what was at stake. Had they consulted me, I would have told them that. And I don’t advocate torturing a pregnant female and unborn pup. I didn’t agree when Alpha Grant did it and certainly never would have supported plans to harm another in the same fashion.” He hesitated and then asked quietly, “Did you get to her...in time?”

“She lives.” I struggled to swallow past the lump in my throat, “but not without harm.”

His expression tightened. “I am sorry...to hear that.”

There was a sincerity to his words as though he meant them. But could I believe him? I wanted to. It would mean avoiding killing hundreds of Nightshade wolves, many of them women and children. I hated killing pups.

Let’s see how far he would go to prove himself. “I demand a sacrifice as proof of your goodwill.”

Tension rolled through the shoulders of all three kneeling wolves. Jaw clenched tight, Alpha Cade replied through his teeth, “So be it.”

Head held high, his eyes never left mine as he readied himself for the killing blow he knew was to come.

“Oliver, take out his Delta,” I ordered through the mind link.

With zero hesitation, Oliver fired off a shot from behind me. The bullet hit it’s mark, square in Delta Lane’s chest. Eyes going wide for the smallest seconds, the Delta lost his stance and his body crumpled to the ground.

Alpha Cade and Beta Nash remained motionless.

I leaned forward and ordered, “Beta, look at me.”

His head came up, piercing blue eyes meeting mine.

“It’s only because of your daughter that I spared your life today.” I wanted him to understand. “But if you step out of line...even a little...I will end you.”

While Asher and Willow would have understood my reasoning, I preferred not to kill her father if at all possible.

The Beta gave me a slow nod of understanding.

I refocused on Alpha Cade. “You are willing to swear fealty? You fully understand what that means?” Even though he didn’t sanction the attack against me, his wolves had been involved which made him responsible. “You’re willing to abide by any punishment I determine and any spoils of war I want?”

“Yes.” His head went down. His hands clenched into fists. It wasn’t easy for him, but he got the words out, “I and my pack swear fealty to you.”

“Okay. One third of your land will be mine,” I stepped back, “and every unmated female above the age of sixteen.”

Alpha Cade’s head snapped up, eyes wide with shock. “But how will our pack survive?”

I tilted my head and replied with a smirk, “I suggest your mated pairs get busy.”

I had no sympathy for the plight of the future of his pack and taking his unmated females reduced the risk of letting his pack live.

Alpha Cade ground his teeth together but didn’t argue. Smart Wolf. Instead, he asked, “What now?”

“All Nightshade wolves are dead. Only four others remain along with Dagger. And I suspect he is eating his way through at least two if not three of their dicks already.”

Alpha Cade’s eyes went wide. He swallowed thickly, holding back a gag. “What would you have us do?”

“Clean up,” I replied nodding to the carnage of dead wolves around us. I was ready to go home and disposing of more than forty wolves was not what I wanted it to do. Not to mention, they were husbands and fathers to shewolves in his pack.

The Alpha looked around slowly, great sadness spreading across his countenance. Again, his expression seemed sincere. Maybe I could trust his intentions after all.

“Come with me,” I ordered shortly and spun around.

When I reached the back door and stepped over the threshold, the stench of sweat, cum, blood and throw up was overwhelming. As expected, the second Wolf sitting on the couch was now dickless. Grace had applied patches over their wounds to keep them from bleeding out, but both wolves writhed in pain. Dagger was crumpled on the floor. He had thrown up and one of my wolves was scooping up the mess with gloved hands and shoving it down his throat again. The remaining two unmutilated Diamonte wolves shook uncontrollably as they stared.

From the corner by the door, Hycinth whimpered.

I clenched my hands. It was time to end this.

Their lives belonged to me. I would be the one that stared into their eyes as the life bled out of them. Removing a long blade from my thigh, I strode to the first Diamonte Wolf. I grabbed a handful of his hair and jerked his head back. Silent tears rolled down his cheeks. Without a word, I slit his throat. Dropping his limp form to the ground, I moved to the next one and repeated the process until all four were dead.

That just left Dagger.

I was done. I’d given him enough of my time. Now, my mate and pup needed my full attention.

Leaning down, I ended his worthless life, my knife slicing easily through his back and into his heart.

Dagger never saw the killing blow, his eyes screwed shut in pain.

He twitched once and then his body stilled. No heartbeat remained. He was gone.

It took several hours after I changed clothes and gathered Hycinth in my arms to get home. We went immediately to the Cottage. The wall of curtains had already been replaced with solid doors. Sentinels were positioned around the perimeter. They had strict orders. No Wolf was to get close without my express permission. And every Wolf was commanded to be silent and unnoticeable.

Two days went by...

...while I lay with Hycinth naked, skin against skin, stroking her sensitive flesh.

The physical improvement in her body was obvious. Red and purple bruises faded. Her heartbeat and respiration stabilized. No hint of pain filtered through the bond. Every moment, I waited for her to wake up, desperate to look into her eyes.

But she didn’t.

There was no movement of the pup in her belly, no hint of her Wolf anywhere, and even though her body had mostly healed, Hycinth remained unconscious.

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