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Monday, February 13th, 2012
Filed under This & That
Seeking revenge, Pride is headed back to the compound where she was once nearly broken to the will of an evil master. She’ll stop at nothing to free the enslaved wolves still caged in the estate’s underground prison. Knowing there is only one way back inside the fortified mansion, Pride allows herself to be captured.
Armed with a plan, she finds herself back in her cage but when things begin to unravel, she once again finds herself at the mercy of her former master. This time, however, she knows she has two wolves on her side, Logan and Stone—powerful alphas who will both fight to the death to free her.
Except the compound hides secrets that threaten both her heart and her identity and when bonds are tested and bloodlines are revealed, Pride realizes if she completes her mission she’ll be releasing her pack into a world where no one, least of all Pride, is safe.
The night is thick, dark, and ominous—much like my current disposition. All around me the vineyard’s nightlife falls mute, the cacophony of familiar sounds muffled beneath the heavy, menacing mood. Tension hovers overhead like a threatening rain cloud and my flesh tightens, waiting for the sky to crack open and fracture the silent night. Even the crickets stand down, their chorus hushed as they sit watching, waiting, listening for the hammer to fall, or in this case, the silver to pierce.
It unnerves me to think that the nocturnal creatures surrounding the estate—a mansion where I’d once been imprisoned—instinctively know that I, along with the pack of wolves at my back, are walking head first into danger and chances of survival are slim at best.
Not unless I can deceive him. The master. A coldblooded human who kept me under his strict control for seventeen long years. The same man who taught me to trick, to lure, to embrace my primal side in an effort to hunt the ruthless drug dealers who dared to cross him. But I’ll have to put on my best performance yet if I want to fool the soulless predator who uses both silver and abuse to domimate his wolves.
And they call me the monster.
The second I surrender and he slaps a collar around my throat, I know what I’ll have to do—convince him that I hadn’t run away from the compound and had only been following his orders to hunt down a rogue wolf.
But showing no emotion in the face of an enemy who is as cunning as he is powerful might not be as easy as it once was. Not after everything I’ve been through. The fact that I’ve changed while running in Olympic National Park with the rogue wolf in question, however, is a point in my favor. The master no longer knows all my weaknesses.
Or any of my strengths.
I angle my head to see Logan, the boy/wolf who wound himself around my heart and helped me learn so much about the world, and about the girl inside me. When my eyes lock on his, my stomach punches into my throat and I swallow a cry of anguish.
Emotions crowd me because I realize Logan’s fate is in my hands and I know what will happen to him once I turn him over to the master. I must abandon him like he’s nothing more than a tick on my ruff, like what happened between us in that cave two weeks ago during the full moon was nothing more than a diversionary tactic. Despite our bond, I understand it’s the only way we can get inside the fortified compound, the only option we have. But it still doesn’t make feeding him to the wolves, so to speak, any easier.
I smile at my new mate but my expression slips when I turn away. The truth is I’m frightened. Frightened for Logan. Frightened for the pack of wolves at our backs, for the pack still trapped inside—what will happen if I can’t get them out? And I’m frightened for Stone, the alpha who pretended to be my enemy but who risked his very life to save mine.
I can only hope that the boy I’ve known since childhood was able to use his wit and resourcefulness to stay alive. But what if I’m wrong? What if the master kills him because of me?
I draw in a sharp breath and work to desensitize. I can’t let panic get the better of me. Not now. Not after I’ve come so far.
Keeping to the shadows and camouflaging ourselves in the hostile night, my footsteps slow as we reach the long winding driveway leading up to my former master’s estate. With my sight unhindered by the darkness, I glance past the thick iron gate defending the perimeter and take in the sprawling mansion nestled at the foot of Mount Sirren.
On the south ridge of the mountain, overlooking the estate, fields of grapevines provide a gorgeous backdrop to the majestic manor. As I inhale the familiar scents, I struggle to tame the wolf pacing restlessly inside me, but I can’t seem to marshal the unease seeping from my every pore.
Even though our aim is to get in and out as quickly as possible—no one wants to be inside the compound any longer than necessary—it’s still a risky plan, dangerous, and the scars marring my body are a constant reminder that disobedience comes with a price. If I make one wrong move, one small mistake under the master’s watchful eye, not even the capable alpha beside me or the pack of werewolves who make up our small army will be able to step in and stop him.
Something I long ago vowed to do.
My ears perk for sound, and I note that the propane-fired cannons, a device used to scare birds from the vineyard, are quiet tonight. But come tomorrow they’ll blast again. At least they’d better blast, because my plan to get the others out alive hinges upon it.
Floodlights sweep the area, splashing monstrous shadows over the manicured lawns and towering marble sculptures. As I take in the array of statues fringing the walkway I can’t help but think they resemble an armed band of soldiers ready to defend the empire, prepared to kill all those who threaten their leader. I look beyond them, and in the distance I spot the front door with its ornate, silver doorknocker.
As I glare at it, my heart thunders and my blood pumps faster. The majestic entranceway might look welcoming to most, but I know it’s not. I know the cruelties that await us on the other side. But instead of heeding common sense and running in the opposite direction, we’re walking straight back in, simply because it’s the only way I can follow through with the vow I once made to myself.
Logan moves closer, sensing my discomfort. Unwilling to give in to my fears, I breathe in his comforting scents, pulling them deep into my lungs. The heady bouquet of clean earth—a fragrance that reminds me of cool, summer days—mingles with the fresh aroma of pine needles. The aroma seeps under my skin and as it travels through my veins I suddenly can’t help but wish I was facing the master alone. I hate the risk Logan is about to take. Hate that he’s so sure of me that he’s willing to put his life in my hands.
Aware of the security cameras panning the area, I take a tentative step closer to the intercom outside the gate. But fear for Logan’s safety has my stomach rebelling as the bulging black button taunts me. I want to reach for it, but I can’t seem to move, my mind and body no longer functioning on the same wavelength.
Logan curls his hand around my waist, and I jump at his touch. He slides me a look as those perceptive blue eyes of his slowly move over my face, a careful assessment that makes me uncomfortable.
His voice is low, reassuring and I try not to fidget when he whispers, “It’s going to be okay, Pride.”
I force a smile and my wolf bristles, but I no longer let her take comfort in his touch, or the warm strength of his body. Right now I need to draw on my anger, because it’s that anger that’s going to keep my wolf sharp and keep us alive.
“Pride,” he says again in that soft tone that always gets to me, then he pauses to add depth to his words when he states, “We’ve all got your back. Nothing is going to go wrong.”
“I know,” I respond and study his family as I work to keep my voice from sounding uncertain. Although Logan is smart, strong and skilled, we’re no longer playing in his territory. While his world might have dangerous black bears, birds of prey, and wild, feral animals, the king of my jungle is far more deadly.
And we’d be wise to remember that.