Special Release Excerpt:
Jared wasn’t offended, or maybe he was more focused on the outcome than on what was said getting there. “Matty, Elisha didn’t ask to be your uncle’s mate. When he was taken and forcibly claimed, he was barely of age. Think about it like this—your uncle was worse than our old alpha, so what kind of a life do you think he’s had here? And now he’s pregnant and was left to die by his own father? While I know most alphas wouldn’t care about some omega and his pup, I believe you would. Do you, old friend? Or have you changed so radically in the years since you’ve gone?”
Dammit. The guy was good at negotiating—and emotional blackmail—I’d give him some credit. Not only had he called me Matty, but he had to tack on ‘old friend.’ Tucker, standing close enough to easily hear both halves of the conversation, shook his head. I didn’t know whether he was telling me to stand my ground or reminding me of our code.
Fuck me, I don’t have a choice. I have to do this, no matter how much it kills me. Nevertheless, I tried one more time to beg off.
“You ask too much, Jared. This is unfair. You want me to come back and fight to retake the pack from Monty—since we both know he won’t hand it over—and you are asking me to forcibly claim a delirious omega who was already abused by my uncle. And then you want me to accept the responsibility of his pup, too. Is that what you’re saying? Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.”
Jared spoke in a rush, relief evident in his voice when he realized there was a chance I would give in. “There’s just no other way, Matty. Newberry Springs invaded this morning. Half of our Delta soldiers were killed, and the others were either taken or left to die. Isaac—our current epsilon healer—saved the ones he could. I have all the wounded here, along with the four gammas from our ruling council.”
He paused barely long enough to take a breath. “We’ve sequestered ourselves in the alpha mansion. Monty and his men left a few hours ago with every able man and boy of working age. They took them back to Newberry Springs, leaving women and children and the elderly or physically challenged men behind. About thirty-one pack members remain, aside from the council and the injured deltas. Matty, I’m turning to you because I don’t know what else to do. I can’t protect them and the alpha mate at the same time. And I certainly can’t claim him. I need help from a real alpha who I can trust to save both Elisha and our pack.”
When I heard Monty had left his son behind, I knew immediately I would do as Jared asked. I still had a few questions, though.
“Jared, I remember Monty Whitetail as being a hardass. But surely he didn’t mean to basically murder his own son? Especially when he’s pregnant? He knows about the pup, doesn’t he? Exactly how long has my uncle had this omega there? I’ve calmed down, so I’m thinking our packs are no more than an hour apart. Why didn’t Monty save his son sooner? I mean, he has to have been there at least a few weeks, right? Detecting the pregnancy before then would’ve been impossible unless your healer stumbled over it during an examination or something.”
As if it broke his heart to say the words, Jared spoke solemnly. “Your uncle brought Elisha here over six months ago. His father had more than enough time to find and rescue him. The truth is, he’s been negotiating with Alpha Horace for a payout. When our Alpha didn’t meet his terms, Monty threw down the challenge. Understand this, Matthias. Monty doesn’t want Elisha back. He told me—and this is a direct quote—to let the mutt die. He said his only worth was as a bartering chip for a pact he’d been trying to make with an
alpha in Arizona. Their deal fell through when Elisha was stolen, and Monty focused on getting some sort of payback from Alpha Horace. Now Monty has everything he wants and no reason to rescue someone he considers used goods.”
“Fuck! I have to do this, don’t I?” I was speaking more to myself than to Jared.
“We need you, Matty. We need you to save Elisha and to save our pack. We could’ve used your leadership for years. But now you’re our last hope. I know I’m asking a lot, but the pack we have now aren’t the same people who were here when you left. Most of our parents’ generation either moved along after Alpha Horace came into power or have died out. The ones here now are mostly a mix of new blood and the people we grew up with.
You might not have to kill Monty, you know. You could offer a ceremonial challenge, where whoever strikes first blood wins, and wrest control of the pack without any blood on your hands. But if you did have to kill him, Elisha wouldn’t blame you. And you’ll like Elisha, I mean it. He’s young, but he’s an old soul with a gentle sweetness about him. Oh, and he’s a great cook. A real homebody… but then, I’ve heard most omegas are pretty shy.”
“You don’t have to sell me on his qualities as a mate, Jared. Even if he was a complete asshole, I would still be willing to save his life. He’s the victim here, and I damned well know it.” Sighing, I pushed away from the pool table and paced back and forth. I didn’t want to do this but… shit. There was no other choice.
Considering everything Jared said, I felt better about the decision I was about to make, though I had to ramble through my thoughts. “I’d be within my rights whether I chose the ceremonial or traditional challenge. Either way, I would avenge my uncle’s death, as heinous as the idea sounds. And I would be asserting my rights on behalf of my new mate and his unborn child. If I’m the one who acts, the Supreme Council won’t have a reason to intervene. The Territory Chief will sign off on it without question. Dammit. I really was your only option.”
Jared spoke softly, his voice thick with emotion. “There is nobody else, old friend. But even if there were, you’re the most trustworthy alpha I’ve ever met. Being your pack beta would be my honor.” With a soft sigh, he paused for a second. “Matty, I hate to ask this of you, but we need you—Elisha needs you—and time grows short.”
“Give me an hour and a half to get there. And Jared? Thank you for giving a shit. But do me a favor? I don’t like the idea of the weaker pack members being left unguarded in town while you and the gammas are sequestered. Tell those gamma wolves to get off their asses and go get every leftover pack member. I want them behind the safety of those walls, and I want it done before I get there, or my first act as alpha will be finding some new gammas.”
Jared chuckled lightly. “There’s the alpha I remember. Hurry home, Matty. It’s been far too long.”
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