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Four weeks had gone by. Four long weeks of keeping my hands to myself, agony, when all I wanted to do was gather Brinley into my arms and ravish her body from head to toe.

But the temptation was too much. We couldn’t have intimate kisses and touches, and not take it farther. Our interlude in the cave had proven that point beyond a shadow of a doubt.

As soon as Brinley was naked, my Wolf had come within minutes of marking her. I’d stopped him, but just barely.

Frankly, I had no idea how I’d been strong enough to keep us both from marking and mating Brinley. The force of the bond drove me hard. It was relentless.

Darcie had explained the compulsion was even more heightened for me as a future Alpha, the Moon’s way of getting what she wanted, the right wolves as her Luna’s. And damn, I had to agree, the bond wasn’t something to be played or trifled with. It was all-consuming, and it washed over me at least a hundred times a day, jerking me toward my destiny.

Even the air between Brinley and I seemed to be sexually charged, without either of us having to do or say a thing. Just looking into her eyes caused every part of my wolf and me to come alive. Well, some areas more than others.

I shifted my man-parts in my pants. Yet again, it seemed to have a mind of its own and was continually perking its head up like a damn meerkat, standing at attention, just waiting and hoping.

I was beginning to wonder if I would forever walk around with a perpetual hard-on.

Brinley was just as bad. She had all the makings of an out-of-control hormonal juvenile wolf. Even now, as I faced off with Daniel and Jax, Brinley eyed me hard from across the room…

…her focus on one specific part of my anatomy.

One of her pouty lips caught between her teeth, and her eyes glazed over—a tell-tale sign she was fantasizing. The scent of her sweet arousal filled the air.

My nostrils flared. Her scent was a damn addiction. I bit back a growl as I watched her.

She didn’t notice my eyes on her, too absorbed in her world of fantasy below my waist. Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, she rubbed her legs together, seeking friction between her thighs.

I wasn’t the only wolf in the room that caught her scent. In his usual lack-of-filter way, Jax grinned over his shoulder at her, “Damn girl, again? You’re a lil’ horndog.”

Brinley inhaled sharply, her cheeks turning crimson. She stuttered, “What do you mean? Why would you say that?”

Jax raised an eyebrow. “You know exactly why I said that. You can smell yourself just as much as I can with your extra-sensitive wolf nose.”

My Wolf paced in my head. It was one thing for us to go unsatisfied, but he did not like leaving her pretty little kitty wanting. If he had his way, she’d be ass-up, morning, noon and night, so well sated that she couldn’t take anymore and begged him to stop. I whole-heartedly agreed with him, but right now we didn’t have that luxury.

Brinley’s arousal had a direct effect on my body. I’d been semi-hard before, but now, I was excruciatingly stiff. It couldn’t be helped, so I’d given up worrying about it. I just kept sparring.

Jax spun around. In mid-strike, he nodded his head down toward my crotch pointedly, and remarked, “Dude, point that thing the other way. You’re liable to poke my eye out.”

I rolled my eyes and smirked. But Jax’s comment had successfully distracted me enough to allow Daniel to land a solid jab to my side.

“Fuck,” I grunted.

And the instant Daniel hit me, Jax was already in motion for a follow-up strike, seeking the soft spot on my belly under my ribs, a significant pressure point to be used to his advantage.

I narrowed my eyes and huffed out a breath as I moved to block his attack. I’d been onto Jax for a while now. His comments were not casual joking conversation. They were calculated warfare to divert attention and gain the upper hand.

He might be young, but Jax was clever and used whatever he had available to overcome his opponent. It was what had propelled him to succeed as an Enforcer at such a young age. I respected his tactics even if I was currently at the brunt end of them.

Langdon stood next to Brinley across the room. He’d sat out this training session. As soon as Amber arrived, they were going out, so he’d already taken a shower and gotten ready.

He thought I was busy with Jax and Daniel and couldn’t hear him, but I recognized the sadness in his voice when he asked Brinley softly, “Is that it...Is that what the bond feels like?”

He was serious. He wasn’t trying to joke or tease. He desperately wanted to find his mate and experience the joy of that connection for himself. I wished there was something I could do to help him.

We had a bumpy start, but he was a noble wolf. I respected how he’d defended and cared for Brinley, even if I didn’t like his extra interest in her and him asking her to be his mate.

But as long as my father breathed, Brinley remained vulnerable. I would take Langdon’s help any day of the week in keeping her safe when I wasn’t around.

Brinley didn’t answer his question. Instead, she replied with equal softness, “You’ll find her. It isn’t too late.”

They were interrupted when Amber walked down the stairs. Daniel, Jax and I separated, taking a breather.

“Hey, are you ready to go?” Langdon put on a smile and kissed Amber’s cheek. She smiled brilliantly back at him. She definitely had feelings for him, even if he wasn’t her mate. I wondered what had happened to her mate or if she’d ever found him.

Amber nodded, her lips curled up happily. They headed toward the door when Ryder abruptly entered the basement.

My anxiety level spiked. He shouldn’t be here, not right now.

Ryder had joined in some previous training sessions, but his schedule today was full. He should have been at the packhouse.

So why had he come all this way? And why hadn’t he mind-linked with me when he was within distance to let me know he was coming?

The hard look on Ryder’s face confirmed my suspicion.

Something was wrong.

The Onyx Moon Enforcers also felt the unease rolling off of him. Ryder was normally very laid-back, so the thin line of his mouth and furrowed brow was disconcerting for them as well. He ground out, “You’re needed back at Ravenwood.”

“Okay.” I took a step in his direction as everyone else in the room remained silent.

Ryder interjected meaningfully, “No. All of you.”

I stopped in my tracks.

All of us were required at Ravenwood? What the hell?

I asked through clenched teeth, “What’s going on? Does Alpha know about Brinley?” I didn’t think I was quite ready to face him yet, but I suddenly suspected I had no choice in the matter. Still, it didn’t explain why the Onyx Moon Enforcer’s attendance was required as well.

Brinley’s heart rate increased, her eyes wide. We all waited with bated breath for Ryder’s answer. He shook his head. “No, not about Brinley. It’s the vampires.”

I sucked in a deep breath. That explained the haunted look on his face. I asked carefully, “What about them?”

Ryder’s face twisted, he swallowed and then said, “They breached our borders and killed three Ravenwood warriors. An emergency meeting has been called for all of the packs. It’s being held at the packhouse in Ravenwood. We expect every Alpha to be in attendance, except Mason. He pulled out of our joint effort.”

Langdon’s eyebrows shot up. “What the hell do you mean he pulled out?”

I understood his concern. Our last multipack meeting had been held at White Fang. Alpha Mason’s decision not to support us now raised serious alarm bells.

Ryder just shook his head.

“Who died?” I asked quietly.

Ryder gave me their names. I would need to visit their families as soon as possible. My father wouldn’t. He assumed because they died in the line of duty, their families shouldn’t expect anything different from him. It was their expected responsibility, a responsibility we all shared in keeping our pack safe, and everyone knew the risks. That was true, but it didn’t change the fact that three families were now grieving, and the least we could do was reach out to them.

I turned to Brinley. I wouldn’t have time for a shower, so avoided touching her. My voice was deep with authority, “Stay away from the packhouse, but near the edge of the forest until I find out exactly what we’re facing.”

The cave where she stayed was well inside of our borders. I didn’t anticipate an outsider making it that far without being confronted by our warriors, but I wasn’t taking any chances, not until I knew more.

I also didn’t want her anywhere near my father. Brinley didn’t need to be on his radar right now. He’d been suspicious when I called off my mating with Calla.

As a result, she and I had made a point to avoid each other entirely, just to be safe. My Wolf and I still ran circuits through the forest at night, checking on her from a distance, but we usually did not train at the same time.

She worked with Amber on the days that I wasn’t sparring with Langdon. Today was an exception. We’d both been missing each other and just wanted a few hours together in the same room even if we couldn’t touch.

However, my plans for her to avoid my father went south when Ryder again shook his head and said quietly, “Alpha wants her there.”

My hands clenched into fists. I gritted out, “What the fuck do you mean, ’he wants her there’?”

“He demanded her specifically. He says he wants her there to help serve our guests.”

Shit. It was a valid reason, but I didn’t trust him.

Brinley’s eyes were wide with fear, and I cursed the fact that I couldn’t hold her. I murmured fervently, “I promise, I will keep you safe. I’m close now. If I had to fight him, I might win.”

She swallowed thickly. “‘Might’ isn’t good enough. I won’t let you fight him until we’re confident that you will win.”

I gave her a soft smile, trying to reassure her. But in my heart, I was anything but confident regarding Alpha’s intentions toward her. He was a bastard of the worst kind when it came to Brinley.

There was no way we could all head back together as one happy little group, so Ryder and I went first. Brinley would wait fifteen minutes and Langdon, Daniel and Jax would follow her scent, but not be close enough to be seen with her, making sure she made it through safely.

I hated to leave her safety in their hands, but Alpha would question any delay in my return. He was already probably pissed that I wasn’t there.

Ryder and I shifted and ran silently together.

After Brinley’s stunning revelation of the torture she’d endured at school, I’d confronted Ryder. Our conversation hadn’t gone easily, not when I found out he’d been an ass to Brinley as well.

And I’d used my fists to explain precisely how unhappy I was with his behavior. He’d understood and accepted my reaction without fighting back.

Thankfully, he’d never touched Brinley. I don’t know what I would have done if I found out he hurt her physically. He was my blood, but she was my mate, a treasure beyond value.

Ryder had told me what I wanted to know, including the fact that he’d apologized to her. I was proud of him for owning up to his behavior. It was a step in the right direction. I understood that he’d been young and stupid, but that wasn’t an excuse to be a jackass just because everyone else was.

And now during his interactions with her, I noticed he made a point to be gentle and include her in every conversation. I hoped his turnaround hadn’t been solely related to the fact that she was my mate. I hoped he’d genuinely changed and matured. I thought he had. I’d seen significant differences in the way that he viewed things and handled problems. And he hadn’t tried to lie or diminish his responsibility for his past actions. He’d owned up to his behavior. Even in the face of my wrath, he’d been honest. And that said something about his character.

He’d also given me the names of the shewolves who’d tormented Brinley. Their behavior was on another level. It was despicable. Even if their target hadn’t been my mate, I would still seek retribution. Actions like theirs should not go unpunished. And when the time came, they would be lucky to walk away with their lives.

Rather than punishment, there was a much higher chance that my Wolf would eat them and lick his jaws happily when done.

I couldn’t deny his thirst for their blood. I felt it too, and I suspected I wouldn’t be able to let the matter drop until they were gone from my pack entirely.

But it wouldn’t be easy. They were daughters of prominent males. I would have more than one fight on my hands.

When we returned, there was a flurry of activity, wolves scurrying in every direction getting the house ready for company that would be there in under an hour.

I made my way directly to my father. He looked up from his desk when I approached.

“What happened with Mason?” I asked.

His lips pushed into a thin hard line, anger radiating off of his shoulders. He spat, “I don’t know. He has one of the largest packs. His refusal to help in protecting our community as a whole will cost many lives if it comes to a fight. We only know of three vampires, but I don’t trust any of the devils. It wouldn’t surprise me if we got ambushed by a much larger regiment. They’ve left us alone for the most part over the years, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have considerable forces on standby.”

Shit. It wasn’t what I wanted to hear, but was as I suspected. Alpha slammed his fist down on the wood desk and snarled, “I’m sending you and Ryder to White Fang.”

My eyes narrowed. “To do what?”

“Simple. Change his mind. Make him reconsider our alliance. I can’t go with all of the other Alphas in attendance here. You’re going to have to do this.”

Shit. Shit. Shit.

How was I going to convince a long-standing Alpha to change his mind and do what I wanted him to do? Just the changing his mind part would be almost insurmountable. Most Alphas dug in their heels. Once they’d make a decision, they didn’t change it.

On top of that, I wouldn’t be here to protect Brinley. And I wondered if that was part of my father’s plan for sending Ryder and me. Maybe not because I would be the natural choice after him, but then again, I wouldn’t put anything past him. I needed to talk with Langdon before I left.

“When do we leave? Do you need me here for any part of the meeting before we go?”

He shook his head. “You leave now. There’s nothing more important than getting his support back.”

After a conversation with Langdon in which he promised to stick as close as possible to Brinley while I was gone, Ryder and I were on the road.

It was a four-hour drive to White Fang territory. I was driving my truck. Ryder had his head back with his eyes closed and headphones in his ears. I could tell from his breathing he wasn’t asleep, but I didn’t interrupt his inner reflection as it gave me time to think as well.

I needed to come up with compelling arguments. But what could I say that wasn’t already obvious? Mason’s choice was going to cost wolves their lives. Surely, he could see that. I didn’t understand it.

Three hours into the drive and I hadn’t gotten much farther in my thought process. However, all of my attention was diverted when, without warning, something landed on the roof of my truck with a heavy thud!

The vehicle swayed under the force of whatever impacted it. “Fuck!” I cursed, fighting to keep the truck from spinning out of control.

Ryder’s head lurched up in the seat next to me, cold hard fear shown in his eyes. He gasped, “He’s here!”

That’s when I smelled it, or rather them—vampires!

And from the sound of movement on the roof of the speeding truck, one or more vampires were currently holding on.

No, this couldn’t be happening!

I slammed on the brakes, trying to throw their bodies over the front of the vehicle where I had a better advantage. One of the males went tumbling past the windshield and rolled to a stop on the ground ahead of us.

As much as I wanted to run him over with the truck, it wouldn’t help. It wouldn’t kill him. But I could kill him...and was happy to do so.

However, before I could even open the door, another vampire dropped his head from his vantage point on the roof so that he was looking upside down in Ryder’s side of the vehicle. My heart stopped. Ryder was right. It was the vamp who’d marked him!

With a sadistic grin, the vampire slammed his fist through the window, and moving so fast, he was hard to track with my eyes, he shoved a syringe into Ryder’s arm and plunged the liquid into his veins.

So focused on the vampire still latched to the top of the roof, I realized too late that another had come up to my side of the vehicle.

There was a crash through the window and a prick in my arm. Almost immediately, I felt the effect of the drug. It sapped my strength, pulling on my eyelids, but more than that, it diminished my Wolf! He was now silent in the background.

I forced my eyes to stay open only long enough to see the male vampire smiled broadly at Ryder, clearly pleased with his catch, a full set of white teeth and two fangs showing as he purred, ”Hello, pet...”

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