Read an Excerpt
Copyright © Megan Linden 2017. All Rights Reserved, Totally Entwined Group Limited, T/A Pride Publishing.
Jack had loved the nights of Full Moon Run ever since he’d been a kid. There was something special about the pack gathering to run together under the night sky, surrounded only by the sounds of the forest and each other. It was a symbol of both belonging and freedom. It gave them a chance to come together as one and to run without worry, knowing that there was always someone close by, ready to come when called upon.
The participation wasn’t mandatory and most members of the pack missed a run from time to time, but not Jack. He had attended all of them except one—and that had been because he’d been eight at the time, he’d been sick, and his mothers had insisted he stay in bed. He had tried to sneak out, even then, but Mom B had caught him before he’d gotten down the stairs.
Jack had run with either Julia, his twin sister, or Terry, his best friend, among others, but with both of them away for college, these days he usually stayed with the main group, unless he needed some time alone.
Tonight, he’d started out with the big group, but then he’d grown restless and had ultimately taken off on his own, following his instincts. He hadn’t realized where he was going at first, but when he got to the outskirts of the forest and saw an old house through the trees, he knew—and he wasn’t all that happy about it.
He came to a halt. No, you’re not doing this, he told himself, but his wolf whined under his breath. The pull was strong and, after a short struggle, Jack finally let himself move closer. Some things never changed. Tomorrow there would be time to berate himself, but tonight he wanted… He needed to be right where he was.
He hadn’t seen Connor since that day over two weeks ago when they’d literally crashed into each other, almost precisely eighteen months after Jack had watched him leave Harrington Hills behind.
Jake had been on the way to help his friend David pick up new tiles for the bathroom when the car coming from up ahead had swerved on the road and had headed straight at them. David had managed to avoid a head-on collision, but they’d hit a tree instead, and the other car had bumped into their side. After checking on David, Jack had jumped from the truck and run to the other car to make sure everyone was fine. Then he’d frozen a few steps from the driver’s door.
Connor Warsen. Connor Warsen, who hadn’t even noticed him, had stumbled out of the car in a hurry to check something in the backseat. And before Jack had been able to back away—hell, before he’d been able to take another breath—Connor had been standing there, barely a few feet away, holding a baby who’d smelled like fear and misery and had wailed painfully loud.
Then Connor had looked up, and, when he’d seen Jack, his eyes had opened wide. He’d stopped rocking from side to side and making shushing noises, which had made the baby cry louder.
The baby. The baby who’d smelled like Connor.
Jack had taken a step back—and another. Then he’d turned, walked to the other side of David’s truck and leaned against it, facing the forest. In the back of his mind, he’d registered David making a call then saying help was on the way. Jack hadn’t known if David had been talking to him or to Connor—with the baby—but he’d nodded. He hadn’t been able to even open his mouth to speak.
And now, two weeks later, Jack was standing on the outskirts of the forest behind Connor’s family house and he was reaching out with his senses before he could talk himself out of it. He knew he shouldn’t be doing this. There were rules about privacy and boundaries in the pack, but he just— He just had to. He was powerless to do anything else, to be anywhere else.
He’d been at this house numerous times years ago, but it smelled different now. The bitterness, while sharper than before, was mixed with a fresh, sweeter scent. Jack lifted his head and inhaled deeply again, focusing further. The sweetness was likely due to the baby in the house, but he wondered about the other part. Was it Connor’s father? He’d always been bitter and cold but had he become more so, living on his own? Or was it Connor? Could he regret coming home this much already?
Jack’s sense of smell had always been better than his hearing, so it took him a while before he finally heard the murmur of conversation. After another minute, he could recognize the voices and the words.
“I meant what I said. Don’t think I didn’t.” Leonard Warsen’s voice was biting and hard. “If you think I’ll change my mind, that I’ll take pity on you again and—”
“I don’t need your pity,” Connor cut in and something sour twisted in Jack’s stomach.
“You did need it as recently as two weeks ago, as I recall. I told you then you could stay three weeks and the clock’s running out. You better believe me or you’ll be very surprised come Thursday morning.”
“This house is half mine.”
Connor’s father snorted. “Are you gonna fight me for it? Take me to court? Or, better yet, go running to the Harringtons?” Jack tensed at the venom in the man’s voice. “That I’d like to see. The Alpha could enforce the law, but she won’t, will she? Not after you broke her precious little son’s heart.”
“Watch it.” Connor’s voice sounded like he was grinding his teeth and Jack tensed even more. He had only seen Connor angry twice, and both those times had been because of his father. It hadn’t been a pretty sight.
“You’re the one who needs to watch it.” There was a sound of a glass against glass and a chair being shoved. “Come Thursday morning, you and the kid better be gone—or I will make sure you leave.”
A moment later the door shut loudly. The silence that followed was full of anger and bitterness and an underlying note of loneliness.
Jack swallowed a whine that wanted out and he dropped down to rest on his stomach. He wasn’t any kind of a guard but he could just…be there. Then maybe Connor wouldn’t feel so alone.
He had no idea how long he had been lying there, staring through the trees at the Warsen house, when he heard something to his right. Someone was coming. Jack got up and faced the direction of the sounds of crushed leaves and snapping branches.
He caught her scent right before he saw her. Of course. Mom B appeared between the trees and paused when her gaze fell on him. She looked from Jack to the Warsen house, then back at him. She shook her head. Under different circumstances, Jack usually found it funny how similar she acted as a wolf and a human. Right now, he just felt ashamed.
He hung his head low, putting his ears flat against his skull. He could hear her coming closer, so he just stood there, waiting.
She bumped her head under his chin then rubbed the arch of her snout over his neck. She breathed out warm air right into his ear and he almost yapped in a laugh. It had been her way of tickling him ever since he’d been a little boy, but she hadn’t done it in years. Jack nuzzled her, too, inhaling the scent of home and family. He hooked his head around her neck and closed his eyes, trying to empty his mind and wishing he could forget what he’d just witnessed.
Finally, she drew back a bit and tilted her head in the direction they’d both come from. Jack nodded and followed her through the forest, forcing himself not to look back. There was nothing there for him, anyway.