I shuddered hard, a feeling of ominous foreboding settling over me like a black cloud, oppressive and stifling, blocking out the light of my soul.
My mate was rogue!
And I would have to kill him...
The compulsion for Coal’s death was overwhelming, irresistible. It crashed over me and surged through my veins like a gale wind—my body betraying my heart and my mind. A war I was destined to lose. My Wolf whimpered in my head, confused by the conflicting emotions running through her. She didn’t want to hurt our mate just as much as I didn’t, but we both knew we had no choice.
Alpha’s lips curled into an evil smirk, thoroughly enjoying the power play he’d forced on his two sons—sentencing Ryder to death. He had to know there was no way Ryder could overcome Coal. And no way would Coal’s broken heart ever heal if he was forced to kill his own brother.
I couldn’t stand to look at Alpha’s face, but I also couldn’t afford to turn away. Silently, I tried to reach Coal with my mind, extending my energy outward and waited for his response with bated breath. One minute, then two, then five—only silence in return. Was he fighting? Or worse, was he hurt? My chest rose and fell rapidly as I unsuccessfully tried to control my breathing.
Maybe it was better I couldn’t contact Coal. He was facing four formidable wolves. I didn’t want to break his concentration. The reality of my thoughts sickened me. Here I was, trying to do whatever I could, to make sure Coal killed wolves I considered my friends. The irony was so beautifully horrific—I was perfectly willing to trade their lives for his, but at the same time, I wouldn’t hesitate to kill him myself, if given the opportunity. I worked to force the bile back down my throat.
As the minutes ticked by, Alpha’s expression turned less smug and became more enraged.
What did that mean?
Without warning, he shot across the room and launched himself over the couch, his hands and arms outstretched to grab me. I screamed and bolted to the side, but wasn’t quite fast enough to entirely evade his claws. The razor tips swiped along the flesh of my forearm, drawing deep lines of blood. Pain surged through me. I bit my lip to keep from crying out as I wrenched my arm from his grip and spun to the side. I ran across the room, once again scrambling to maintain the distance between us.
But Alpha was right on my heels, his big body tackling me from behind. I landed hard, the front of my right hip taking the majority of the impact as I sprawled on the floor.
“Oh!” I couldn’t keep from calling out in pain. The impact site on my hip was throbbing. It felt like I’d landed on a rock. But how was that possible? I would have noticed a random rock on the floor by now.
And then I remembered—my ring!
I’d forgotten I tucked it into the front pocket of my pants earlier when Langdon and I returned to the cave to grab an outfit for me. I’d kept it hidden from Langdon. I knew he wouldn’t agree with me carrying the ring on me, particularly to see Alpha, but I’d felt an overwhelming impulse not to leave it behind, so had tucked it into my pants at the last moment while he was waiting outside.
At the time, I felt it was a good compromise. I could have it with me but still hidden so Alpha would never know. However, now, keeping the ring hidden from Alpha, sort of paled in comparison to my present concern of whether or not I would survive the next hour.
I jerked and bucked my body, trying to get Alpha off my back. Twisting hard to the side, I jabbed my elbow into his eye.
He roared furiously and instinctually reached for his face, giving me enough room and distraction to wriggle out from under him.
Getting my feet under me, I shot toward the door. Alpha’s truck was outside. If I could make it there, maybe I could escape!
I just didn’t know if he’d left the keys in the truck or not. He’d kept me blindfolded until I entered the cabin. Oh well, it was my only hope.
Panting hard from the adrenaline rocking through my system, I made it out the door and halfway to the truck before I was knocked off my feet again. My cheek slammed into the dirt. For a moment my vision went black, and then spots of light flashed before I could see again. I cried out, but his hands wrapped around my throat, cutting off my cry. He squeezed. Shit. He was going to kill me before Coal even arrived!
“I thought you wanted my help in killing Coal!” I rasped, struggling to get the words out, using the only argument I could think of that might matter to him.
An evil chuckle released from his throat. Thankfully, his grip on my neck lessened. “Oh, I’m not trying to kill you. Trust me. You’ll be oh so ready and willing to fight him should he make it here alive. But for right now, you’re a distraction. I suspect your Wolf is calling out to him even as we speak. Am I right?”
There was a half second delay in my mind, probably due to lack of oxygen, as I gathered my scattered thoughts and realized Alpha was right! My Wolf was crying out to our mate with everything she had. Even in her forced delusion of wanting to kill him, she cried for his help.
My response must have been evident in my silence because Alpha laughed. He jerked me to my feet and spun me around, one of his big hands still collaring my neck. “It will be ten times harder for him to defeat the four wolves while he’s listening to your Wolf cry like the little bitch she is.”
But then his laughter cut off completely, and he spun me back around so that I was standing in front of him, facing the edge of the forest.
My belly lurched into my throat as a dark grey, almost black Wolf emerged.
Obsidian eyes bore into mine—Coal!
Searing hate filled my body to see my father holding Brinley, his hand wrapped around her neck.
My Wolf’s thoughts were clear. They pounded through my head.
Tear him apart.
Rip him limb from limb.
Make him bleed.
I completely agreed.
“Coal,” Brinley whimpered, her expression twisted in agony. But the torment in her mossy green eyes wasn’t due to his hold on her. No. I realized now, she wasn’t just trying to get free from him...she was trying to break his grip...so she could attack me!
I spoke directly into her mind, pleading, “Fight it, sweetheart! We’re stronger than him. I know we are!”
Her inner turmoil played out in her eyes, wrestling, churning, fighting. She shuddered hard from head to toe. And then a tear rolled down her cheek as she whispered, “I can’t.”
My heart sank. It would be hard enough to fight Alpha one-on-one, but now I would have to take on both of them, and somehow, not hurt Brinley or get killed in the process of destroying Alpha.
“So kind of you to join us. Too bad you won’t live long enough to enjoy it,” my father drawled, and then his expression turned lecherous, “and no mistake, once I’ve disposed of you, your little bitch will be mine...in every sense of the word.”
A snarling growl ripped from my Wolf’s chest. He shook his big head and bellowed air out his flared nostrils as he pawed the ground, a bull getting ready to attack.
For just an instant, my father’s expression of ultra-confidence froze. In that second, he questioned whether or not we could take him out. My lips curled up wickedly. I wondered what expression my Wolf wore as I mindlinked directly to him, ”Oh yes, motherfucker...I can, and I will put you down. You’re going to pay for everything you’ve ever done to her...you never should have fucked with my mate.”
Alpha’s lips thinned to a hard line.
Abruptly, he let go of Brinley!
Brinley leaped forward and shifted in mid-air, her clothing shredding from her body, her Wolf fully formed before her paws even touched down. She barreled toward me with only one intent in her dark green swirling orbs—to kill. Before she even made it halfway across the clearing, my father shifted, his Wolf running hard right at her flank.
Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!
My Wolf calculated their speed and distance, his muscles coiled tight with anticipation. Brinley’s head was low, signaling her intention to attempt to roll him.
My Wolf waited until Brinley was almost upon us, and then his body released violently...he sprang...vaulting right over top of her.
My father didn’t have time to react before my Wolf slammed into him, both of their massive frames landing hard. Razor-sharp teeth snapping and snarling, trying to find purchase, in each other’s necks.
Before my Wolf could latch on, Brinley jumped on our back!
Her claws sank into our sides as she tried to hold on, her powerful jaws not quite within reach of his jugular. My Wolf violently twisted his body, bucking her off, snapping his teeth at her in warning.
Brinley hit the ground hard and rolled to regain her footing. But my Wolf couldn’t focus on her, because my father swiped his claws furiously along the flesh of our side, drawing blood.
My Wolf struck lightning fast, his teeth grazing Alpha’s flank, deep enough to leave a nasty gash, but not enough to inflict real damage.
Alpha flipped around.
My Wolf surged forward, looking for an opening, but once again Brinley attacked, her canines sinking into our shoulder. My Wolf roared his frustration. We needed to get her out of this fight.
My stomach roiled. There was only one way. My Wolf and I both knew it. We were going to have to inflict a wound sufficient enough to take Brinley out of commission...but there would be consequences. She wouldn’t just be removed from the fight...she would also be left vulnerable to Alpha. It was a calculated risk we were going to have to take.
As my Wolf snarled and evaded their joint attack once again, he made the decision. She’d left her right side open. My Wolf’s teeth sank into her back leg, snapping her femur bone.
Brinley howled in pain. The sound grated through my head painfully, my ears felt as if they might bleed.
Brinley crashed to the ground, whimpering, unable to get back up.
My Wolf worked to draw Alpha’s position farther away from our fallen mate. He was successful for a few minutes, but as the fight continued, and my father’s Wolf realized we were more than evenly matched, he changed tactics. Without warning, he darted back to Brinley. Brinley’s Wolf’s eyes were wide with fear. She was a sitting duck—unable to move, unable to evade his attack.
In a split second, he sank his teeth into her neck!
Brinley let out a gurgled cry.
The sound of my thundering heart roared in my head.
My Wolf had already leaped into motion, landing on Alpha less than a second later, his big paws and teeth sinking into the other Wolf, wrenching him off of Brinley. But the damage had already been done.
Brinley’s cries broke off into silence. I watched in horror as she shifted back to skin, her wound too damaging to be able to hold the shape of her Wolf.
Brinley lay on the ground naked, broken, blood seeping slowly from the wound at her neck.
My Wolf’s primal howl pierced the air. But we couldn’t stop and tend to her wound. Any mistake now meant we’d both die. Alpha advanced, once again targeting Brinley. My Wolf intercepted him, forcing him back, but we couldn’t counter attack without risking our defensive position in front of her. Brinley was still breathing, but for how long? And she certainly wouldn’t be able to survive another deadly blow.
Alpha’s Wolf stood ten feet away, breathing heavily, sizing me up. He taunted through mindlink, “It’s too bad your little shewolf will be dead shortly, and you won’t have any fight left in you.”
I couldn’t respond to his claims Brinley was going to die, the thought was just too painful. I snarled, “The only Wolf, guaranteed to die today, is you.”