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The rise of so many lone wolves into a prospective sixth pack brings the Alphas of all the North American packs to Willow Bend for a summit. Having so many powerful dominants in one place invites challenges and hazards. No protocol can be ignored and none feels the strain more than Lincoln Buckley. He’s been charged by his Alpha to act as liaison for the Delta Crescent Alpha—the fierce and wildly beautiful Serafina Andre.

Serafina stands apart from her ‘fellow’ Alphas. As the only female to hold sway over a North American pack, she only has Delta Crescent’s interests in mind. She expects challenges from the other male Alphas, dominants all, due to their need to protect females. It doesn’t surprise her in the least to find out the wolf assigned as her liaison has also been tasked with her protection. What does startle her is the depth of her interest in him.

An Alpha doesn’t submit, no matter how much the woman in her might crave him. Her pack must come first, especially since what Willow Bend proposes is insanity…

Read the first chapter!

Prologue
Mason
Ryan slid his hands in his pockets. If the wolf demonstrated
no other tells, the act of tucking his hands into the pockets of his slacks
told Mason a great deal. His father-inlaw—a grounded parent, clever attorney,
and dangerous wolf in his own right—remained uncertain about Mason’s proposal.
While not entirely certain it would work, Mason believed the gamble to be worth
it.
“Who else have you discussed this with?” Ryan asked into the
quiet. Melissa lay sound asleep on her tummy on the thick rug in front of the
fireplace. At eighteen months, she’d long since mastered walking and ran
everywhere. Her boundless energy, however, came at a price. When she collapsed
to sleep, she crashed hard.

Plucking her blanket off the back of the sofa,
Mason crouched next to his daughter and covered her. Alexis currently trained
with Claire Buckley, an odd match-up Mason wouldn’t have considered before his
mate interceded on a fight between Ranae and Claire—well, a one-sided fight
anyway. Turned wolves didn’t always know their own strength or how to use their
speed to their advantage.

A natural born wolf, Claire not only survived
her years in Sutter Butte, she’d also proved tenacious in her oath to attack no
one since being allowed to return to Willow Bend. Will and skill combined to
make her a formidable fighter. Talent and disposition made her an invaluable
instructor. Mason wanted the best for his mate and Claire delivered.

Some questioned his choice, but Mason trusted
his instincts. He’d trusted Claire when she said, “I want to come home.” Her
mating to Tyler back on track, Claire proved an invaluable member of the pack
and the perfect instructor for Mason’s mate. Not that Alexis will ever need to
fight to survive, not again.

“Mason?” Amusement colored the reminder, and
Mason pushed to his feet. “Only Alexis. She has unique perspective on wolf
politics.” And he’d only discussed the bare bones of the idea with her.

“Does she know about you and Serafina?” Shocked,
Mason swung around to stare at his father-in-law. How the hell did Ryan know
about Serafina? It had been brief, hot, and over years before. The faint hint
of amusement on Ryan’s face vanished. “I know a lot of things. It doesn’t
matter how I do. What does matter is whether bringing Serafina Andre here along
with the other Alphas bothers my daughter.”

His daughter. “She’s my mate.” Mason met stony
glare for stony glare. “One has nothing to do with the other.”

“You keep telling yourself that, son.” Ryan
shook his head and glanced at the sleeping baby on the floor. “That said, it
isn’t done. Meetings between Alphas, on the very rare occasion that they
happen, typically occur on neutral territory. It’s safer for everyone
involved.”

“We did all right with Salvatore.” He’d liked
the Italian Alpha, a far more powerful wolf than he ever let show, yet he’d
been a gracious guest. If he’d chosen to make Luciana’s cause his, he could
have been a terrific threat. Scratching his jaw, Mason wrestled with the plan.
“How often have Alphas met, anyway? I remember representatives at Serafina’s
ascension. None came to mine. Brett was already Alpha
when I left Willow Bend—newly-minted, but still
Alpha.”

The same Alpha who’d granted Mason sanctuary for
a time, but without Mason bowing to him, he couldn’t stay in Hudson River.
They’d parted amicably enough. Hell, Mason half-considered the New Yorker a
friend.
“Honestly?” Ryan shrugged. “Toman met with none of them if he
could help it. I think the last time may have been at the end of the war, but
that was before my time. He never hosted them here. It’s a crazy kind of
dangerous to bring all the alphas together in one location, especially if the
location happens to be your territory.”

“I’ve already considered the potential downside
to having them here versus a more neutral location. Having them here gives us
an excuse for the meeting…”

“An excuse?” Ryan’s eyebrows rose. “Mason
Clayborne is hosting a personal auction of his territory, first come first
serve?”

He chuckled and clapped Ryan on the shoulder as
he circled the sofa and headed into the kitchen. The bar separating the two
rooms let him keep an eye on the sleeping cub while he poured coffee. “Yes,
something that lets the alphas save face with their own packs, yet agree to the
meeting within territory. I’m young enough, they can see it as a foolish
gesture without threat while appreciating the additional security it will
provide them.”

“What are you up to?” Intrigue filled the sharp
wolf’s eyes, exactly the expression Mason hoped to see.
Spurred on by glee, he smiled. “That’s the
point. They’re all going to wonder what I’m up to, or at least some of them
will. Brett will come because, while I owed him a favor, he owes me one now.”

“Gillian?” Not much escaped the attorney. “Exactly.
He bonded with her during her previous visit, and she’s still tacitly connected
to him. She’s my wolf, but I think he still needs her on some level. So she’s
all
the leverage I need there.”

“Okay, that’s one,” Ryan said then folded his
arms. No longer uncertain, he seemed to understand Mason had a plan. “What
about the other three?”

“Serafina owes me a favor. I’ll call that in to
get her here. Cassius…I have an in with Cassius.”

Ryan frowned. “Tyler won’t like you asking
Claire to do that.”

“No, he won’t. But Claire will do it and, between
us, we can get Cassius here. That only leaves Diesel.” The Yukon Alpha wouldn’t
be easy to persuade. Chances were he wouldn’t show up at all, except Gillian
would prove very useful in persuading their healer to come for a visit. The
healers talked, they all did. Some thought their alphas didn’t know, or maybe
they simply didn’t care if their alphas did, but the healers shared bonds. With
everything that happened in Brett’s pack, coupled with the headache Mason
continued guarding in Nebraska, a conference of
the healers would give them all the
cover they needed. If the Yukon healer came,
then Diesel would have no choice.

“Oh.” Ryan laughed softly. “You are an evil
bastard.”

“Yes.” Mason grinned, raising his coffee cup. “I
am.”

Chapter One
Serafina

The mid-morning sun flooded the windows with a
bright glow, warming the tiled floors. Seated in a tilted chair, balanced on
its back legs with her feet propped on the edge of the table, Serafina soaked
in the buzz of conversation surrounding her. Amy Lange, the Delta Crescent
Traiteur, occupied the breakfast nook bench. A cup of coffee sat on the table
to her right, some beignets to her left and her hands full of a crocheting
project she’d become obsessed with while Trish LeClere swiped one beignet after
the other. One of her pack’s finest Hounds, Trish pulled rotation for guarding
the Alpha, but she would
have been at coffee regardless. A morning among
friends offered her the perfect start to
the day.

“What is that going to be?” Trish asked,
nibbling on her second swiped beignet.

“Theoretically?” Amy grinned. “Or actually?”

“Pretty sure she meant what it’s supposed to
be.” Serafina eyed the wool concoction. A deep shade of evergreen, it filled
Amy’s lap before spilling onto the table. Still, she continued hooking and
tugging the yarn.

“Well, I wanted to make a scarf, then it got too
wide. So I thought maybe a shawl, but I couldn’t figure out the angles, so now
it’s going to be a blanket.”

“For a horse?” Regina paused in cursing the eggs
she fried to glance over her shoulder. Her platinum blonde hair seemed to glow
beneath the rainbow streaks of blue, green, purple and pink.

Instead of being offended, Amy simply stuck her
tongue out. “Maybe.”

Serafina chuckled. She loved having them all so
close. Sometimes life sent her wolves in different directions. Delta Crescent
had nearly three thousand wolves all told.

One of the largest packs in the States, but they
were scattered over the Gulf Coast with some wolves living as far away as the
Florida Keys and as far north as southern Virginia. By right of territory, she
controlled one of the largest assets in the States and preferred Louisiana to
all of them.

Born there, she’d likely die there. Another sip
of coffee and she debated whether she should turn her phone over. With so many
pack members, someone always needed her. If it were an emergency, they called.
All other messages were sent via texts or emails. The information age made life
both easier and far more complicated.
As if summoned by the thought, her phone rang.
Scowling, she flipped the phone and stared at the caller identification.

Mason
Clayborne.

The others quieted as she answered. “Good
morning, cher.”

A soft masculine chuckle greeted her. “Good
morning, Serafina. First or second cup?”

The problem with former lovers—they learned all
the bad habits and how to use them to their advantage. Third, actually.”

“Excellent, then you’re available for a business
call.”

“Unfortunately.” She glanced at Amy, and the
woman rolled her eyes, but she bundled her crochet before grabbing her coffee.
Trish scooped up the plate of beignets and led the way out to the long porch on
the far side of the house. It gave Serafina privacy, yet they remained close
enough for her to join them after she and Mason finished.

Regina set a plate of bacon and eggs in front of
her, then raised her eyebrows. She’d been fixing breakfast for all of them.
Should she stay or should she go?

Serafina considered the question while asking
Mason. “Is this in regard to our earlier conversation?” In other words, was he
calling about the missing wolves? Mason and Julian, the Chief Enforcer, had
been a pain in her ass over the last several days.
“Yes.”

Mouthing ‘go’ to Regina, Serafina drained her
third cup of coffee. Only once her ears told her she was alone did she ask.
“What’s going on?”

“I want to invite you to bring your healer to
Willow Bend along with a nominal number of Hounds, if you feel it necessary.”

An unexpected invitation. “I’ll repeat my
earlier question, what’s going on?”

“Truthfully? We’ve got a big problem. I want the
healers here to confer on some information my healer uncovered over the last
year, things I think they should really put their heads together about while
you, me, Cassius, Diesel and Brett discuss another, graver matter.”

All the
Alphas? In one place?
Mason was
either insane or dangerously brilliant. Unfortunately, those ideas were not
mutually exclusive. “What is the graver matter?”

“We found the missing wolves,” Mason continued,
his tone even and assured. She concentrated on catching any nuance of a lie,
though in her experience Mason played it straight with her from the day she’d
met him up to the day he’d walked away.

“And you’re calling me instead of Julian
because…?” Rayne Barrows had been one of her people. He’d grown up only a few
miles from her and functioned as a Hound for her father when he’d been Alpha.
Like her and so many of the other Hounds, he’d defended her father’s right to
rule. When Papa passed, Rayne surrendered to her rather than fight for dominance,
then he’d left to go Lone Wolf. She held a lot of affection for Rayne and his
family. If the Enforcers hunted him, she wanted no part of it.

“Because the missing wolves formed a pack.” The
words dropped like a localized detonation. She’d seen enough construction jobs
where they imploded a building before they began to recognize the sensation.
Her nostrils flared and she scented the air, assuring herself no one lingered
close enough to hear his words. “Before you say anything, the Enforcers
were handling it, but the new pack is nearly two hundred strong now. This isn’t
some rebellion. It’s a full pack, led by an Alpha.”

“Isn’t that the job of the Enforcers?” she asked
slowly. “To keep the Lone Wolves in line so we don’t get a clusterfuck of this
proportion?”

“Yes and, to their credit, they tried.” Since
Mason liked the Enforcers even less than she did and lived under their thumb
for several years, she accepted the defense. “The Alpha isn’t one of our Lone
Wolves, but…”

“Rayne’s mate.” He’d gone and mated himself to
some Italian wolf and brought her back to the States with him. She knew the
story, heard the reports from the Enforcers while they investigated the missing
wolves. “They were collecting wolves.”

“Pretty much. Sera,” Mason dropped any pretense
of boldness and sounded a tad tired. “They’re tucked away in a town in
Nebraska. I have it surrounded by Hunters, and I locked them down. The
Enforcers can’t take on a whole pack. Even if they worked in concert, it would
be too much for them. It’s up to us.”

“Sounds like it’s up to you.” His request didn’t fool her.
Mason already assigned enough wolves to handle the task. “Are you planning to
bring the other Alphas together for a little assassination and takeover plot?”

“Yes, because Willow Bend isn’t large enough for
me. I need the whole country.” He laughed. Seriously?”

“It’s a thought, a clever one, really. Why do
you really want us? Do you want to sanction them?” Shock rippled through her at
the possibility.
“I don’t know.” Honesty echoed in his words. “It’s a thought.
I have a unique perspective most of you don’t possess. I’ve been a Lone Wolf. I
know how it feels to be on the outside, to feel like there is no place I
belong. This Alpha, she’s young in her power, but she has the right idea. She
knows she faces threats from all sides, yet she isn’t backing down, not even to
her own brother. And he’s one of the most powerful wolves I’ve ever
encountered. Sera, I need your help and your wisdom. You have another unique
perspective.”

“Because I’m a woman.” She didn’t have to guess
what he hinted at with that comment. The role of Alpha didn’t traditionally go
to women. Not because they weren’t capable of leading, but because they weren’t
usually tough enough to take on all challengers. Male wolves, especially male
dominants, wanted to protect women. The women, while powerful, usually focused
more on protecting the pack. In some ways, her gender made her a stronger
leader, but she accepted the handicap present when dealing with other males
outside of her pack. She’d spent years proving her capability in leadership to
her pack.

They’d follow her into fire.

“Yes.” 

Serafina smiled faintly. Trust Mason not to split hairs. “Mason, inviting all of us into
your territory is a bold move. What makes you think one of us won’t take you
out and absorb Willow Bend?”

“I can take care of myself, Sera. I’m also
offering an escort from my pack to liaise
with each of you.”

“Nice.” She chuckled. “You’re giving us a guard
dog who can also assassinate.”

“Hopefully not. You’re a woman of your word. I’d
like to think mine means something. I do not want Delta Crescent, and this is
not a plot to take it from you. I will guarantee your safety while you are on
my land. If someone goes after you, I will be in your defense. I am extending
this promise to each of you. What I want is a face-to-face for all of us. We
have a lot of issues that should be hammered out, not to mention a major problem
if the dissolution and isolation of the Lone Wolves led to this rise of a
pack.”

“And we need to decide what to do with the
pack.” She rose and prowled around the kitchen, her hunger and breakfast
forgotten. “Mason, are you prepared for Cassius to eradicate them?”

“I’m prepared for anything. We won’t move
without a consensus.” She heard the steel in his tone which she remembered so
well. “Cassius may think killing them is the easy answer, and he isn’t wrong.
It would send a very hard and resounding message to all Lone Wolves, but is it
the right answer? Does it serve our packs?”

She had to admit, “I don’t know.”

“Me either. I am not making the decision for all
of us, and I want a conversation. So, will you come? Will you bring your
Traiteur with you so she can meet with Gillian and Emma?”

Leaving Delta Crescent held no appeal, but neither
did the decision being left in the hands of whichever Alphas agreed to attend.
“I will come. When?”

Lincoln

Linc Buckley took a step back and checked the
frame to make sure it looked even.

Hammers echoed as their team put the finishing
touches on the fourth guesthouse they’d put up from scratch in the last three
weeks. Thankfully, early winter weather held off, so they’d been able to get
the frames up and roofs on without snow adding any complications. Each of the
Alpha houses sat equidistant from each other and from Mason’s main residence.
It had taken some patience and thorough measurements to make sure none could
complain one they were closer than the others.

The scent of his Alpha warned him of Mason’s
arrival a moment before he spoke, “Looks good. How close are we to being done
here?”

“We’ll have it ready. The Sullivans are already
finishing the painting inside.” One of about a dozen human families considered
pack, The Sullivan family lived within the precincts of Willow Bend proper.
Other humans were part of wolf families, though just as many eventually chose
the bite to become a part of the greater pack. The Sullivans were fifth or
sixth generation Willow Bend—humans, every single one, save for their
greatgrandmother, who’d married into the pack and taken the bite much to her
sons chagrin.

“Good, good.” The frown Mason wore didn’t match
his statement.

“You wanted humans only inside once we’ve
finished.” Unless he’d misunderstood the pretty specific orders, Linc didn’t
see a problem with the choices he’d made. “We even left the outlets to be
screwed in by them after the wiring was finished.” Only humans entered the new
houses, a rule devised to keep the wolves’ scents out. Since the homes would be
considered territory for the visiting Alphas, their scents needed to be the
dominant ones inside.

“It’s fine.” Mason bumped his shoulder with a
light fist, his attention sweeping over the wolves trimming back and clearing
some of the trees. One of the youths drove in a pattern with a riding mower and
had been making rounds of each of the properties to cut the grass. Hell, even
Thomas Halifax, the mate to their healer, devoted time to the project,
alongside Tiffany Huston, to get winter blooming flowers in place and well fertilized.
Mrs. Huston paused amidst the blooms and waved to Mason. Despite his distraction,
Mason paused to put a hand over his heart and nodded to her. Alexis’ parents and
Felicia—the surviving mate of their former Alpha—were the only people Mason bowed
his head for. Respect, as Mason often said, had to be earned, and those three elders
more than earned his.

A pack effort, as it were.

“If you don’t mind me asking, Mason, you don’t
sound like it’s all fine.” Unlike his brother A.J., Linc wasn’t tight with him.
If anything, he’d clashed with Mason on too many occasions to be comfortable.

Pausing, his Alpha gave him a long look before a
smile eased his stern expression.

“Sorry, Linc. I’m thinking through all the
plans. Protocol has to be observed with every incoming Alpha. Some are harder
to predict than others.”

“We’ve got this, Mason.” Owen Chase called from
across the clearing. He’d arrived about an hour earlier with a delivery of
fresh fertilizer he and Gillian purchased for Thomas. Neither his mate nor
Ranae, Linc’s kid sister, rode with him unfortunately.

“You need to relax, boss.”
“Uh huh.” Mason scratched his jaw. “You and Gillian should
already be on the road.”

Shaking his head, Owen shrugged. As a senior
Hunter and one of Mason’s counselors, he had a lot of latitude with their
Alpha. Though, according to rumors, Owen clashed with their Alpha upon occasion
and he was still breathing. It gave Linc hope for his own future. “Gillian
already talked to Brett this morning.”

“Huh, he answered her call.” The comment implied
he didn’t answer Mason’s.

“Always.” Owen growled, then his expression
softened. “Hard to say no to her.”

“Agreed. How far out is he?”

“He has Trent with him, so he’s stopping every
two hours for bathroom breaks. Gillian told him to stop giving the boy pop, but
whether he listened or not…” Owen shrugged again. “He’s due at the border by
sundown. We’ll be there in plenty of time to lead him in. Do you want to see
him tonight or let him have a night to settle first?”

“Let him get settled and spend some time with
Gillian.” The assessment sent a dark cloud over Owen’s face. Linc shifted the
hammer in his hand and concentrated on not stepping into the brewing storm. Had
Mason really suggested Owen let the Alpha of Hudson River spend time with his
mate?

As quickly as his expression darkened, the
Hunter grinned. “She’ll charm him back to his old self in no time.”

“Thank you for not minding this assignment.” The
emphasis on the beginning of the statement was one of the reasons Mason earned
Linc’s respect as well as his trust. He hadn’t always believed in their Alpha,
particularly in the first months following Toman’s death and Mason’s ascension.
Mason genuinely cared about them. “Getting Brett here is important. He wouldn’t
come for anyone else.”

“He likes Gillian. Sometimes too much, but he
likes her. More importantly, he trusts her.” Owen folded his arms. “You still
want us to be his liaisons?”

“Yes, more than ever. Besides, I know he wants
Gillian to spend time with Trent.” He sighed, then gave Linc a passing look.
“As a liaison, you’re going to hear a lot of stuff. I need you to keep it to
yourself, understood?” A pulse of command underscored the question.

“Of course.” Linc dropped his gaze and lowered
his head. “You have my word.”

“Good.” Mason looked at Owen. “I need Brett to
be comfortable here, more than any of the others. Cassius will be a bastard,
but Claire can handle him. Ty’s not thrilled, but he trusts his mate, and she
knows Cassius better than any of us. Linc will work with Serafina.”

That’s
news to me. Great, I get the Alpha bitch.
Linc kept his thoughts to himself. He’d thought he’d be stuck with
Diesel from the Yukon, since no one knew anything about him.

“I’ve got Dylan on his way north to meet Diesel
in Canada.” Poor Dylan—or maybe poor Yukon Alpha. Dylan could be annoying when
he put his mind to it. “He can handle Diesel’s gruff ass and need to control
every situation.” If Mason said so.
“So that leaves Brett to us.” Owen sighed. “Well, to
Gillian.”

“He’s still linked to her, Owen.” Mason’s neutral
tone lacked any friendly notes. Linc’s wolf crouched. Their Alpha was not a
neutral kind of guy. “She will give him the feeling of pack, plus she genuinely
cares. You and I both know that. Something’s…something’s off with Brett.
Has been since that mess with his wolves. If anyone stands a chance of getting
through his guard, it’s her.”

“I know.” Owen sounded agreeable, but his wolf
flashed in his eyes. “Gillian is looking forward to seeing Trent, too. Emma’s
coordinating the healer meeting, right?”

“Yes. Emma will lead the actual meetings,
allowing Gillian to come and go as necessary. She’ll ensure Brett is involved
in Trent’s assessment and training, which is going to distract him from meeting
with the other Alphas. I need him distracted.”

Linc didn’t see a reason why they’d need to
distract the other Alpha, but Owen scratched his jaw. “He’s touchy. Too many
threats in one room… You’re worried he’s going to be the one that starts
something.”

“Not worried because I won’t allow it to happen.
Brett’s survived enough losses. I won’t let him lose his pack over this
bullshit. Tell Gillian to do her best to fix him, and I’ll suck it up that he’s
still attached to her.” In those few, simple sentences, Mason made it clear why
they’d follow him into hell.

“Glad you can.” Owen’s grin belied his words.
“However, if he invites her into his bed again, I reserve the right to pound
the crap out of him.”

“Noted, just observe protocol.” The sentiment
too dry to be a joke, but he added a faint smile to keep it from being too
serious. “We need to make this work.”

“Mason.” Linc spoke, seeing an opening. “Mind if
I ask exactly what our goal is?”

“To not have to massacre two hundred wolves,”
Mason said, his tone chilling.

“We’re going to need a unanimous decision. Otherwise,
we’re going to have war. I don’t intend to lose anyone, not on my watch.”
Neither Owen nor Linc mustered any response. Across the yard,
another truck pulled in. A.J. loped across the grass wearing a grim expression.
As triplets, Tyler and A.J. were Linc’s best friends and brothers. Having A.J.
home healed a lot of wounds, though his current disposition suggested he
brought more issues for their Alpha.

Mason exhaled a long breath and pivoted to face
his second. “What’s wrong?”

“Ty’s having a fit over the Cassius thing. He’ll
be fine.” A.J.’s tone didn’t invoke the confidence of his words. Linc and Ty
came to blows when Claire Webster—now Buckley—rolled back into town. Unlike
Vivian, A.J.’s mate, Claire did abandon Tyler and it took Linc longer than
either of his brothers to forgive the she-wolf for the pain she’d inflicted.
Still, they proved a solid pairing. His brother’s happiness mattered a hell of
a lot more than Linc’s reservations.

“I thought he trusted Claire’s assessment.”
Sharpness edged each of the Alpha’s words.

“He does.” A.J. didn’t flinch from the harsh
tone. “Cassius called her about a half hour ago.” He flicked a look at Linc,
worry lurking beneath his calm exterior. “Cassius is bringing three of his
Hunters with him. No healers.”

Their Alpha said nothing, even his breathing
seemed to stop. The stillness sent a nervous titter through the other wolves
nearby. Linc swept a look around the field and the wolves present seemed frozen
in place, all eyes on Mason.

“Fine,” Mason said slowly. As one, the other
wolves began to breathe. “Then he can be shit out of luck about what the
healers know. Tell Claire to handle it as she sees fit.”

The level of trust floored Linc. He exchanged a
look with A.J.

“You sure you want her to do that? She wants to
tell him no healer, no trip.”

Understanding kindled in Linc’s gut. No wonder
Ty was pissed and A.J. worried.

Claire planned to threaten an Alpha. Tough as
she might be, Cassius ruled Sutter Butte and had for years.

“I’m positive.” Mason smiled and relaxed his
posture. “She knows him and, if I read Cassius right, this is a test of our
authority in the matter. Let her throw down the gauntlet. And don’t worry,
boys. She has all of us to back her up. I have no problem knocking some sense
into Cassius if I have to.”

One-by-one, the surrounding wolves returned to
their work and A.J. reached for his phone, muttering. “You better be right,
because I am not letting Ty near that bastard in his current mood.”

The sour scent of nerves perfumed the air. The
tension in town would rise before it got better.

“Linc.” Mason commanded his attention. “Walk
with me.”

Leaving A.J. and Owen to their tasks, Linc
obeyed. They walked a considerable distance, following one of the winding
routes through the woods. Though it possessed no true path, some areas had worn
down from the recent traffic of workers coming and going. They’d long-since
passed earshot for most of the wolves at the house, but Mason continued onward
without saying a word, so Linc kept pace.

After the protracted silence lingered for the
better part of a mile, Linc slid a sideways glance at his Alpha. “Just to be
clear, if you’re taking me somewhere to kill me, I didn’t do it this time.” He
was only half-kidding.

Thankfully, Mason’s laughter eased his rising
concern. “No, you didn’t, and you’re not in trouble. The only Buckley pissing
me off at the moment is Ranae, and she’s being dealt with.”

The mention of his sister made Linc sigh. She
wasn’t a baby anymore, but he still saw a little girl with pigtails in her. Her
open defiance and blatant attack on Claire earned her probationary status and
assignment to Owen’s detail. She’d not been allowed back in Willow Bend proper,
though Mason granted his parents the right to visit her once a week if Owen
said she’d behaved. So far, so good. If she could get it together, Mason was
fair.

He’d let her come back home.

“Good to know,” Linc said when Mason didn’t seem
in a hurry to add anything more.

Finally, Mason paused and eyed a tree. Alongside
of it, just barely out of sight,

Linc spotted a string tying back a branch. Stupid kids. Without commenting, Mason
triggered the trap, caught the branch and then freed the spring. “I need to ask
you to do me a favor, one that will put you in a very uncomfortable position.”

A favor,
not an order.

“Name it.” He didn’t hesitate. “Provided you’re
not asking me to go against A.J. or Tyler.”

The caveat gained him a grin. “No, I wouldn’t
ask you to get into the middle of anything with the two of them. The three of
you beat each other up enough for any ten families.”

“All right, then.” Relaxed, he nodded. “What can
I do for you?”

Thrusting his fingers through his hair, Mason
faced him. For the first time in longer than Linc could remember, he saw the
man and not the Alpha. “You’re going to be Sera’s liaison. I need you to
protect her at all times. She won’t want it and, frankly, in a physical fight,
you don’t want to face her. She is a vicious combatant, and she doesn’t hold
back…but she will get some flack from the other Alphas. They’ll all want to
coddle her and test their dominance against hers. Unfair perhaps, but not
unexpected. I’ll deal
with the other Alphas, if she doesn’t slap them
down first. What I need you to protect her from is Alexis.”

Shock struck Linc mute. Was Mason seriously
worried his mate would attack the Delta Crescent Alpha?

Clearing his throat, Mason said, “Sera and I
were lovers once upon a time and Alexis doesn’t know that…yet. She will before
Sera gets here. I won’t have it used as a way to undermine her or this effort.”

Linc’s jaw locked.

“That said, Alexis has a temper.” Understatement
of the year. “I do not want Alexis and Serafina left alone together. Ever. If
Lexi shows up, call me immediately. I will answer your calls, period, no matter
what I’m doing.”

“Mason…” He tried to cobble his concerns
together to form a coherent sentence.

“I know, and I need you to promise me you’ll do
this. I won’t order you. It’s a hell of a thing, but I need you to promise me
you’ll never let them be alone. I don’t care what Serafina orders or Alexis,
for that matter. In this, you have my permission to override Alexis.”

A pit yawned out in front of Linc, and it looked
suspiciously like his own grave.

“If Lexi goes for Serafina…who the hell am I
supposed to protect?” Instinct would always put his Alpha’s mate before the
Alpha of another pack.

“Both of them.”


Oh. Yeah. No problem

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    are you going to write a story for the other 5 packs?