“Remember the night I killed you?”
Her voice, the velvet touch of a consummate courtesan, whispered into his ear with a softness meant to distract before plunging the concealed weapon into the unsuspecting lover.
Not that she needed a weapon to carry out her nightly escapades. That was for the weak.
The darkness concealed her, and although he couldn’t see her clearly through the numerous tree branches she hid behind far above, her sneer bristled his fur. Fangs extended, large eyes over high cheekbones, legs so long and strong she ran and leaped from tree to tree with ease looking for her next victim to sink her teeth into and rip apart.
Looking up into the treetops, his lips curled back in a snarl, exposing his razor-sharp teeth.
She continued to taunt him. To get under his fur. Her tone casual, as if conversing over the dead was as mundane as talking about the weather. “I remember it quite well. Like it was yesterday. How many years has it been? At least a hundred, if I’m not mistaken.”
He hadn’t forgotten. How could he? The blood. The severed heads of his soulmate and firstborn son. A part of him died that day.
The loss affected everyone in the pack. His mate was their Luna, the heart of the pack. A pack could not function without a Luna and an Alpha. It crippled them all and nearly destroyed them.
He never fully recovered.
“Talk to me, Sten,” she cooed as her bare feet slipped soundlessly over a thick branch. It groaned under her weight. “Tell me how it feels. Tell me how your soul aches for hers. Tell me how it feels to lose your own flesh and blood because you couldn’t save them.”
Growling, he lunged at the tree. His huge claw-like paws grasped the lowest branches that snapped immediately under his weight. The bark cracked and chipped away as he grasped to the trunk.
Cackling met his ears as he pulled himself up one arm-length.
She jumped effortlessly to another tree as his claws tore through the bark and he began to slip.
Carina was always slipping out of his grasp. She took to the trees knowing that he would never be able to reach her. She moved with a swift grace that his huge form could never muster.
“Always one step behind, aren’t you, Sten? Such a pity you can never reclaim what you desire.”
A smug humph, and she took off in the treetops.
Dropping to the earth, he took off after her. Her scarcely heard movements would have enabled her to disappear in the blink of an eye, but trees were not so silent. Their branches rustled, small twigs snapped, and evergreen pine needles flitted to the ground, their spicy scent following them.
She was practically odorless, the scents of the forest masking her own. The only way he could keep up with her was to follow the sharp scent of pine needles as they fell to the earth.
She zipped to the right, and just as quickly turned sharply to her left.
Nearly losing his footing and crashing into a tree, he dug his claws into the soft earth, grabbed hold of a root, and just barely twisted around the trunk by the skin of his teeth.
The near slip cost him precious seconds that enabled her escape as she pivoted around and began to backtrack through the treetops again.
Mentally cursing, he reached out through the mind-link for everyone’s positions.
His beta, Alistair, was the closest, trailing behind Gerald in the trees from the west toward him, while his head warrior, Gunner, was running north after Adranus.
Gerald was like the son she couldn’t have. Carina had doted on him for the last seventy-five years. He was tall and lean, but not as nimble as her.
Adranus was her lover for several centuries, if not a millennium. No one was certain how long the pair had been together, but it didn’t matter. Adranus aided Carina in the murder of his mate and pup. He wanted them both taken out.
[Coming in hot—straight toward you, Alpha,] Alistair stated.
He huffed. This again?
Carina had pulled this move before. It worked the first and second times in the past, but each consecutive time after that was a failure as he and his pack mates anticipated it.
[You know it, Alpha.]
His lips pulled back in a grin as he launched himself forward, his paws pounding against the forest floor. He whipped through the forest, weaving between trees as his claws gripped onto roots to lean his weight to one side before releasing with expert precision.
Within minutes, he could hear Alistair panting, paws thundering, and heart racing as he sped toward him with Gerald overhead. He was angled to the right ahead and coming in fast.
He locked his eyes on the tree ahead that would surely be the next pivoting point, where Carina and Gerald would connect before bounding off in another direction and leading both him and Alistair into a head-on collision.
He smirked to himself. Not this time.
[Target acquired,] Alistair stated.
Excitement built up within as he gave himself another burst of energy forward.
Alistair’s massive form came into view as a dark blur on the forest floor as Carina yelled, “Now!”
The pair in the treetops met briefly on a limb before splitting up in different directions, but the lycans down on the ground were ready.
Alistair jumped ten feet into the air and clamped down on the tree trunk with all four paws, digging his massive claws deep into the bark and breaking chunks off.
The force rocked the tree as Stone launched himself at the one next to it, in hopes of catching the enemy in it and knocking them out.
The impact thundered through the forest, vibrating the neighboring trees as the trunks cracked and groaned with the force.
A cry rang out before branches snapped one by one, down, down, down to the ground
A bark of excitement rumbled through him as he and Alistair jumped down to the earth a split second before Gerald tumbled down, unable to grasp a hold of anything to prevent the ground from rushing up at him.
Before Gerald could even meet the earth, he and Alistair pounced, sinking their teeth into his flesh and ripping him limb from limb as he screamed in agony.
Carina screeched above as they made quick work of destroying the body.
Acidic blood filled their mouths, ran down their throats, and made their stomachs churn as the soil drank it up greedily.
Pulling away, he and Alistair threw their heads back and howled their victory, drowning out the shrieks of the female above.
“I will slaughter all of you!” she screamed. “Every single one you hold dear—I will tear them down and spread their limbs from one corner of the continent to the next!”
[Good luck, Mosquito-Bites!] Alistair shouted up at her, not that she could hear the mind-link. [I look forward to wiping the forest floor with your crusty old ass! Why don’t you check eBay and see if you can find a life for sale!]
She screamed out in frustration once more, throwing pine cones down at them before taking off again.
Barking in laughter, Alistair shot after her and disappeared, leaving Sten to dispose of the body.
Shifting into his human form, he hung his head as he dug his fingers into the soiled earth, recalling the night when the earth was bathed in the blood of his loved ones.
His heart ached despite the stench surrounding him.
Gritting his teeth, he picked up fistfuls of dirt and threw them at the shredded torso a few yards away. Rage seeped out as he roared out his anguish.
He should have felt some consolation in slaughtering Gerald, one of Carina’s precious ones, but he didn’t. Vengeance still boiled in his veins whenever Carina, Adranus, and their minions crossed into his territory.
Nothing could ever bring back those he had lost, and he would find no solace until he had taken both of them out once and for all.
A hundred years ago, Sten died with his mate and son. He was Stone now, Alpha of the Blauwald Pack in Minnesota since 1848.
The night was still young. And he would have his revenge.
Breathing through his mouth, he took a few moments to collect himself. To push the pain, the anger, and the hatred down into his gut so he could think clearly again when Alistair’s presence returned to his mind.
[Alpha! She ran across the highway!] Alistair announced with a note of disbelief and excitement. [You have to check this out! You won’t believe me!]
Shifting quickly into his wolf, he lifted his nose up in the air as his jaw popped out of its sockets and readjusted itself as it elongated into a long mouth full of flesh-ripping and bone-crunching teeth. His ears sprouted up on his head as he listened to the sounds on the wind. His hands warped into massive claw-like paws as fur pushed through his skin and covered every inch of his body in various shades of brown, gold, and white. It took only two seconds for his bones to readjust and his muscles to soften, shift, and harden once more in a process that no longer hurt like it once had centuries ago.
He sniffed for Alistair’s scent before kicking up his paws. [What is it?]
[The nose don’t lie. It’s Adelaide. She’s... She’s back!]