Still tormented by his recent captivity, Alpha Pack commander Nick Westfall isn’t sure he’s fit to lead—especially when he meets the one woman he can’t claim without reliving the torture he endured at the hands of a rogue vampire.
Vampire princess Calla Shaw has seen her own share of heartbreak, but she can tell that the wild attraction she and Nick feel for each other could turn into something significant—if only he’d let it. But Calla isn’t about to give up on her mate without a fight.
Time is running out, not only for Nick to claim his mate, but for Calla and her coven. A vampire war is on the horizon, one the Alpha Pack can’t hope to win if their leader can’t pull himself back from the abyss…
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PRAISE FOR THE
Also by J. D. Tyler
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Alpha Pack commander Nick Westfall strode from his office and down the main corridor of the compound, his heavy black boots muffled on the carpet.
His hand went to his side, fingers touching briefly on the butt of the firearm tucked into the waistband of his jeans. He pulled his T-shirt down to cover it and kept walking.
I should feel something, shouldn’t I? Fear? Self-loathing? Regret?
Yes, all of those things shredded his guts like razor blades, but not because of what he might be about to do. He wanted to hold on. It wasn’t in his nature to give up, ever. But the storm within battered him from all sides, tidal waves washing over his head again and again until it seemed there was nothing left to do but just let go. Drown.
Every time he closed his eyes, he saw Carter Darrow’s sinister smile splitting his cold face. Day and night, the phantom press of the dead vampire’s body, fangs piercing his skin, unwillingly aroused him all over again.
Worse, he’d begged for it. The nightmare of his time with Darrow never left him. The vampire had broken him down, mind and body, to the lowest common denominator of flesh, blood, and desire. He was nothing but what the creature wanted him to be: enslaved.
Choking off a bitter laugh, he turned a corner and almost mowed down Hammer—aka former Special Agent John Ryder. His best friend and right hand, the one man who’d been with him for years. Endured all sorts of shit with him since their days in the FBI, passing a few years as humans. The one man who would see through Nick’s mask in a heartbeat if Nick wasn’t careful.
“Where you goin’ in such a hurry?” The big wolf shifter was half teasing, but the easygoing smile met a quick death as he studied Nick’s face. “What’s up?”
“Nothing,” he said casually. “Just going out to the hangar to check on the repairs of that Huey, and then I’m heading over to Sanctuary to see how things are going with the new residents.”
All of that was the truth. He’d just left out his next, possibly final, destination. Still, the huge bald man narrowed his eyes, shifted his stance, clearly communicating that his bullshit detector was fully functioning. They’d been friends too long to miss when something was off with the other.
“I’ll go with you.”
A test. One he’d fail if he refused his friend’s company, and the guy knew it. Shrugging, he said, “Sure.”
Nick could fool most people, but not the former undercover agent whose life had depended on his ability to read the subtle nuances of tone, body language, and facial expression. And he probably knew Nick better than anyone else ever had, even Nick’s own brother.
As they headed for the hangar, a buzz vibrated against Nick’s thigh. Fishing in his front pocket, he pulled out his cell phone and let out a frustrated breath as he saw his brother’s name on the screen. Hell, the guys of the Pack were more his brothers than Damien had ever been.
He should have known. Just when he wanted nothing more than to be left alone, especially by that asshole, he had a couple of minders breathing down his neck. “Fuck off,” he muttered, pushing the button to decline the call. Then he shoved the device back into his pocket.
“You not gonna answer that?”
“Nope. Thought the ‘fuck off’ made it pretty obvious.”
Hammer was unperturbed, sliding on his sunglasses as they stepped outside. “You know he’ll just keep calling back.”
“Yeah, he’s a dick like that.”
Nick shot him a glare. They had been friends for years, since long before the Pack. The others might suspect that Hammer had known the sad story of Nick’s past all along, but nobody knew for sure and no one had asked in the days since everything had come out.
Hammer had known, almost from the start of their friendship. And he had never told a soul. He was the most loyal, steadfast friend a man could ask for.
Few people knew better what Nick had been through twenty years ago, after making a horrible mistake. He’d used his abilities as a PreCog to change the future, saving his daughter’s life. But his actions had cost his mate her life instead—at Carter Darrow’s hands. Damien had banished Nick from their clan and forced him to leave a then-eleven-year-old Selene behind. He’d lost his daughter, mate, brother, and clan, in one fell swoop. It was that bastard Darrow’s fault—but Damien could have handled things differently. The heartless prick could have supported Nick instead of casting him out.
Which was why Hammer’s pushing Nick to reconcile with his brother completely baffled him. Coming back to the present, he realized he’d stopped to stare at his friend.
“You really want to go there with me?” he asked in a warning tone.
“Just sayin’.” Thankfully, his friend lapsed back into quiet mode until they reached the cavernous hangar, and didn’t bring up the subject of Damien again.
In the driveway outside the building, some of the guys were waxing the SUVs. Correction: most were waxing and two others were goofing off. Jaxon Law, Ryon Hunter, Zander Cole, and Micah Chase were polishing the freshly washed black vehicles to a high shine while Aric Savage and Kalen Black were running around throwing wet, soapy sponges at each other. Nick exchanged an amused look with Hammer and the two of them stopped to watch.
“Gotcha!” Kalen yelled as his missile hit Aric’s chest with a wet splat.
“Yeah? Take this!” The redheaded wolf shifter returned the favor, dipping his sponge into a bucket and then letting it fly, hitting the Sorcerer in the head.
“Oh, yeah? Die, mangy wolf!”
With that, Kalen waved a hand at his own bucket—and the contents shot from it, completely drenching Aric. Who sputtered, cursed, and laughed at the same time.
“You fucker! That’s cheating!” He wiped soap from his eyes and gave Kalen an evil grin. “You’re gonna pay, Magic Man.”
Aric waved a hand at his own bucket, the sudsy water splashing on the concrete as he used his gift of telekinesis to hurl the entire thing at Kalen. Who immediately used his own magic to stop the bucket midair and send it straight back at Aric. Halfway to Aric, the bucket met with equal resistance and hung suspended between them.
“Stalemate,” Kalen said dryly.
“Yeah. All the water’s gone anyway.”
With the ceasing of their power, the bucket fell unceremoniously to the ground with a clatter. Nick rolled his eyes and stepped forward. “Is that all you two idiots have to do today? I’m sure I can find jobs for you. Like cleaning the staff restrooms, for example.”
The words apparently held no real heat, though, from the unrepentant grins he received in response. Aric answered, “Nah, that’s quite all right. I’m sure we can find something to keep ourselves occupied, can’t we, Goth Boy?”
“You bet, Red.” Kalen plucked at his soggy T-shirt.
Hard to imagine that just months ago, those two were at each other’s throats. Now they were horsing around like a couple of teenagers, all smiles. Who knew?
And how far would it set them and the entire team back once Nick was gone?
Nick shook his head to clear that thought. “Anybody know if the Huey’s fixed?”
“The mechanic’s still in there,” Jax said, tossing down his polishing rag. “He was replacing a couple of parts last time I checked.”
“Okay. I’ll go take a look.”
“You ever seen this guy before?”
Nick studied the tattooed shifter, who was rubbing his goatee thoughtfully. “Scott? Just met him earlier today when he interviewed with me. Why?”
“I don’t know, but Tom really loved his job taking care of our vehicles. Guess it just doesn’t sit right that he left without so much as a ‘see ya.’”
“I thought that was weird, too,” Nick admitted. “But Grant confirmed Tom’s departure and vouched for Scott. He seemed competent enough when I spoke with him before.”
“Never mind. I just thought it was strange the way Tom left without a word. That’s all. And in our world, strange isn’t typically a good thing.”
Nick gave a soft laugh. “True. I’ll keep an eye on him.” And how the fuck was he supposed to make good on that when he wasn’t planning on hanging around?
Aric nodded, attitude sober now. “We all will.”
Leaving them to finish the SUVs, Nick strode into the hangar, Hammer still dogging his heels. It was rapidly becoming apparent he wasn’t going to shake his friend anytime soon. Damn. He didn’t know whether to yell or be grateful.
Forcing himself to focus, he crossed the expanse of the hangar to where Scott was working by the nose, grease-covered hands fiddling with some wires. At their approach, the man looked over and turned to greet them, pulling a dirty rag from his front pocket and wiping his hands.
“Hey, there. I think I’ve got her fit to hit the clouds again.”
“Good to know.” Nick studied Scott again, taking closer note than he had during their interview.
Scott Morgan was thirty-one, according to the employee profile Grant had e-mailed to him, and had plenty of experience working on aircraft. He wasn’t overly tall, maybe five-ten or -eleven. Slight build, hands that appeared work roughened, as they should. His brown hair was clean but a little shaggy, falling into dark eyes, and his demeanor was relaxed. His expression was friendly. There wasn’t a single thing the least bit disturbing about the mechanic.
Except that he’d replaced their regular man so suddenly, without warning. Nick was falling down on his job when it took his team members to point out a potential concern. The shame nearly consumed him. He wasn’t doing anyone a favor by remaining here as their leader.
Time for that issue later. Nick gestured to the craft. “So, we can take her for a spin?”
“Absolutely. Whenever you’re ready.” Scott pulled out his cell phone. “In fact, I can call Steven if you need a pilot.”
Steven was one of the Pack’s standby pilots who lived in the nearby town of Cody, Wyoming. He and a couple of others filled in to help out Aric when the team needed more than one pilot to go out on a call. The extra personnel was approved by General Jarrod Grant, and sworn to secrecy involving whatever they might witness on the mission. A must when Nick’s team was made up of wolf shifters—and one panther—with special Psy abilities. Their job entailed battling the world’s most lethal paranormal and human enemies, and anyone from the “outside” had to be trusted implicitly.
“That won’t be necessary,” Aric said, entering the hangar and approaching the group. “I can take everybody.” His long red hair, T-shirt, and shorts were still damp, and he wore flip-flops on his feet. He looked more like he belonged in a rock band than at the controls of a helicopter. But he was a damned good pilot, even from before his time in the military.
“Oh. Okay.” Scott put away his phone. “I can ride along if you all want. Make sure she’s running smooth.”
Aric smiled. “That’s a great idea.”
Nick knew that smile. It was the fake one the Telekinetic/Firestarter gave people he didn’t trust, and Nick wasn’t sure why the man was leveling it at Scott. In fact, his own PreCog abilities hadn’t given him a single vision or even a vibe about the new mechanic. That in itself wasn’t unusual or alarming. It wasn’t like he saw everything. But he trusted Aric’s instincts.
“I agree,” he said. “If she’s still doing anything funny, you can make some adjustments when we get her on the ground.”
The mechanic nodded. “Sounds good.”
Nick didn’t add that even if there was something seriously wrong with the copter, it wasn’t going to crash with Aric on board to set it down safely. Their Psy gifts came in damned handy sometimes.
If Scott had caught on to their wariness of him, he didn’t show it as they boarded the Huey. Nick took the copilot’s seat up front with Aric, while Hammer sat behind them with the mechanic. Aric hit a button and the roof above them slowly slid open to reveal the bright skies. The blades started with a whine and in moments they were lifting off.
The ground fell away, and Nick let himself enjoy the view of the mountains and valleys, the lush green forest below. He wondered whether he’d ever see it like this again, with the earth far below him.
Maybe, if battered old wolves were allowed in heaven.
The ride went without a hitch. After about an hour, Aric brought the Huey around and headed back to the compound. Once they landed in the hangar, Aric shut off the copter and saw to refueling it while Nick and Hammer thanked Scott and said good-bye.
After the man left, Jax and the others who’d been washing and waxing the vehicles walked into the hangar, clearly curious as to Nick’s impression of Scott. They were joined by Phoenix Monroe, a Pack brother who was a Firewalker in addition to being a wolf. Meaning, the guy could literally walk through fire without being burned—unless he purposely dropped his shields.
Hammer posed the question on all their minds. “You think Scott’s legit?”
“Logic says yes,” Nick said. “But I didn’t get any visions.”
“You tried to read him?” the big man asked.
“Yeah. There was just nothing.”
His friend didn’t appear pleased about that news. “My wolf’s nose says he’s human, at least. Not a shifter or a vampire.”
“Mine, too. Unless he’s somehow masking his scent.”
Phoenix frowned. “How could he do that?”
“He couldn’t, but someone could do it for him. Someone powerful could, like a Sorcerer, or perhaps there’s a drug we don’t know about that has the capability.”
“That’s a disturbing thought,” Hammer put in.
“Both.” Hammer eyed him. “Have you actually heard anything about a drug that can mask scent?”
“No, but who knows what all is out there? Our own medical team is working on a drug to delay the negative effects of mating sickness. Nobody outside the compound, except Grant, knows about it.”
“Say what?” Phoenix stared at Nick. “A drug that can delay having to mate? Who are they using for test subjects?”
Nick cringed inwardly at the sudden interest from the wolf. He thought of Noah Brooks, the human nurse who’d been waiting for Phoenix to claim him as his mate, and regretted mentioning it. “They’ve got a couple, from Sanctuary. They haven’t mentioned needing more volunteers.”
He sensed his attempt to deflect the wolf from the subject wasn’t successful. Phoenix excused himself in a hurry, and Nick shook his head. Another fuckup to add to his growing list.
“Shit,” he muttered, watching Nix’s retreating back.
Hammer shook his head. “Hey, you don’t make his choices, or anyone else’s. If he breaks Noah’s heart, or his own, that’s on his head.” There was a murmur of general agreement from the others.
“I know, but we can’t afford to lose two good men.” Nick ran a hand through his hair, which needed a trim. Like it mattered. “Anyway, about the testing. I was just trying to make a point.”
“I got it,” his friend said. “It stands to reason there are plenty of paranormal studies we don’t know about, considering how many different groups there are. Either way, we’ll keep an eye on Scott. Want us to watch him?”
“For the time being. If he’s up to something, we’ll find out sooner or later.”
“Do we know where he’s staying?” Hammer asked.
“His contact info lists a motel in Cody, supposedly while he looks for a place to rent. Also, call Tom and see if he’ll shed more light on his departure.”
“Will do, right after we’re done at Sanctuary.”
The others dispersed to tackle other tasks. Hammer stayed with Nick as he walked to the Sanctuary building, and Nick resigned himself to his friend’s presence. Truthfully, he found the man’s dogged persistence comforting. He wasn’t half as annoyed as he tried to be.
They entered the lobby of the facility, and he stopped for a moment to admire the completed project. The place was like a high-end long-term-
It was certainly a lofty goal, and though it hadn’t been his brainchild, he’d been in full support of the project since its inception. Kira, Jax’s mate, had founded Sanctuary. When she’d first come to live at the compound, she’d been horrified at the treatment received by the residents of Block R—the rehabilitation wing. In particular, she’d bonded with their Fae prince, Sariel, or “Blue” as some called him, who’d been depressed and uncommunicative. No wonder, as he’d been exiled from his realm, captured by the Pack, and was wasting away in the equivalent of a jail cell.
Kira had been passionate about having a real facility to treat paranormals, one that would use staff trained in delivering love and understanding rather than a punitive system that inspired fear. With Blue’s and Noah’s help, she’d put together quite the haven. That wasn’t to say they didn’t have their hard-core, sometimes dangerous cases that required extra measures, such as restraints or drugs, for everyone’s safety. But they received better care than ever before.
The lobby was empty except for the receptionist and a lone shifter sitting in one of the oversized chairs, curled up with a blanket around her shoulders, staring out the window. A nurse hovered near her, tidying the area and keeping an eye on her charge.
“Been wondering about her story,” Hammer commented quietly, eyeing the small tiger shifter. “She always looks so sad.”
Nick kept his voice down. “Her name’s Leila. She and her brother, Leonidis, were attacked while in Cody on some sort of assignment.”
“What kind of assignment?”
“Not sure. She and her brothers are a pride of big-cat shifters, and they run some sort of detective agency. The one upstairs on the hospital floor was injured pretty badly and might not make it.
“Damn.” The man cast a glance toward her filled with something like longing. “I’ll ask her later if there’s anything I can do to help.”
“I’m sure she’ll appreciate that.”
Interesting. Nick pondered his friend’s reaction to Leila as they got into the elevator. In fact, Hammer had been much more animated lately. Talkative. Very unlike the typically quiet guy Nick had known for so long. But he didn’t want to point that out and cause the man to clam up.
On one of the residence floors, they exited the elevator and Nick asked around for Kira. Since he’d given Hammer the excuse of coming here to check on things, he might as well make good. He learned she was tied up on the phone in her office, and instead found Noah coming down the hallway toward them. The head nurse gave them a sunny smile, tired blue eyes at odds with his happy expression.
“Hey, guys. What’s up?”
Nick stopped and studied the younger man carefully. He looked more than tired—vibes of sadness were coming off Noah in waves, though he probably didn’t realize it. “Just checking to see how things are going over here. Any problems?”
“Ha! Is it a day that ends in D-A-Y?” he quipped, making a face.
Nick chuckled in spite of himself. “That bad, huh?”
“No—okay, yeah. But nothing we haven’t been able to handle.”
“Leo?” Hammer guessed.
Noah blew out a breath. “He’s one issue in a string of them. He crashed two hours ago and we almost lost him. Between fighting to save him and fighting with his unruly family, I’m about ready to put in my notice. Go park my ass on a beach somewhere and sip fruity drinks.”
“Except you won’t,” Nick told him with a half smile. “You care too much.”
“Total personality fault,” Noah assured him. “I’m working on it.”
Nick clapped him on the shoulder. “Don’t change a thing. You’re doing great, a real asset to everyone here.”
The nurse’s face flushed and he looked pleased. “Well, thanks. I’ve got lots of help, though.”
A familiar tingling sensation began in Nick’s fingers where they gripped Noah’s shoulder. It was one of the hallmarks of a vision coming on, though he didn’t need to touch people or even be near them to “see” a glimpse into the future. His eyesight swam, and a buzzing overtook his brain. Then the corridor disappeared and the scene unfolded.
“He’s gone?” Phoenix glanced around at his Pack brothers in confusion. “Where did he go? When’s he coming back?”
“He left, idiot,” Aric snarled, eyeing Nix in disgust. “Did you really think he’d stay after what you did to him in front of everyone?”
“I—I was going to apologize! That’s why I’m looking for him!” His voice took on a desperate edge. “Is he staying in Cody? It doesn’t matter. I’ll find him and make him understand how sorry I am. I’ll—”
“There’s more,” Jax put in, his expression grim. “Noah’s been taken.”
“Taken . . .” Nix uttered the word, obviously trying to make sense of it.
“He was kidnapped, by Jinn. I’m sorry, man. But we’ll find him. I promise.”
“No,” he moaned in agony. His legs buckled and Aric grabbed him to keep him from hitting the ground. “God, no.”
The vision faded, though Nick tried to hang on to it. He became aware of his surroundings again, and the other men’s voices asking whether he was all right.
“I’m fine,” he said hoarsely, trying to clear his head.
Here was the part that sucked about being a PreCog—the urge to tell people what was in store for them. His general rule, though, was to be vigilant but never to tamper with the future.
And who the hell was Jinn?
“You sure you’re okay?” Noah asked, grabbing his wrist to check his pulse. “You’re kinda pale.”
“I’m good.” He took his hand back and gave the nurse a reassuring smile. “Anyway, I was making a point. Never sell yourself short. The work you do here is tough, and it’s important. Utilizing your team is essential to success, and that’s something you excel in—which is why you’re in charge of the nurses. Don’t forget that.”
Noah stood a bit straighter. “I won’t. Thanks, Nick.”
“We’ll let you get back to work,” he said. “Call if you need us.”
He thought about giving Noah a small pep talk about his would-be Bondmate, but decided against it for the time being. Besides, who was he to give anyone warm fuzzies on that subject?
As he and Hammer left the building, he said, “Listen, I’m going to go for a run. When I get back, let me know what you found out about Tom.”
But instead of veering off, his friend walked with him all the way to the back of the compound, where the forest began. When Nick stopped, Hammer was quiet a moment before he spoke.
“You get a vision back there?”
“Yeah.” He debated whether to reveal what he’d seen. But what if he wasn’t around to help the would-be mates through their trials? Someone should know. “Phoenix and Noah. They’re going to have it rough for a while. Not sure when, but some bad shit is coming, too.”
His friend frowned. “Like what? You talkin’ in general, or something specific?”
“The bad shit is someone named Jinn, and he’s going to kidnap Noah.” He ran a hand through his hair. “That’s all I know.”
“Jesus,” the big man muttered. “That’s more detail than you’ve ever let me in on before. Why?”
“I just felt you should know.”
“What for? What I am supposed to do that you can’t— Wait.” Then Hammer narrowed his icy blue eyes at Nick. “You’ve been trying to shake me off your tail all day, and now this. I know what you’re planning to do.”
“I don’t follow.” But he did, of course.
Hammer’s voice was sharp as the crack of a gun. “Don’t lie to me. Not to me, goddammit! I know you’ve been through hell. And I know you want out, but—”
“You have no fucking idea how messed up my head is,” he shouted, jabbing a finger at his friend’s chest. “Not a day goes by that I don’t feel Carter Darrow’s fangs in my neck! That I don’t remember what it was like, begging that bastard to drain me dry! He raped my soul, and I don’t know how to live with that.”
“You had no choice,” the other man emphasized. “It wasn’t your fault. Vampires seduce their prey. That’s how they operate.”
His anger began to deflate, leaving him hollow. “I know that. But it doesn’t make living with the nightmare any easier.”
“And then there’s Calla.”
Nick’s jaw tightened, his gut clenching. “What about her?”
“Man, I saw how you reacted to her at the party the other day,” he said, studying Nick carefully. “You exchanged a few words, looked at her like she’d grown a second head, and lit out of there like your ass was on fire. She your mate?”
“Where’d you come up with that?” He swallowed hard.
“I’m asking. It’s not that tough a question.”
“Yeah, well, it’s a tough answer.” Nick sighed, looking away. His heart hurt like it was being scored with razor blades—proving he wasn’t dead inside. Unfortunately. “Tell me what I’m supposed to do about having a Bondmate, one I can’t stand the thought of touching me the way Darrow did. Seducing me, and feeding from me.”
“Shit.” Hammer paused. “You can get past it. I believe that.”
“I wish I had your faith.”
“One thing is for sure—I’m not going to stand by and watch you kill yourself. Not that I really believe you’ll go through with it.”
He gave a bitter laugh. “What makes you so certain?”
“You care too much,” Hammer said simply. “About your daughter, about Noah and Phoenix, your whole team. Even the mate you don’t want. You care, and you won’t leave no matter how much you want to.”
Misery clogged his throat. His friend was right, and he hated it. Turning, he looked out, into the forest he loved so much, and at the mountains beyond. The one place that had always given him comfort. Until recently. Now even his wolf didn’t care whether they ran. He was curled up inside Nick, hurting deep in the core of his being.
He took a breath. “I’ve lived over two hundred years, and as a born wolf I’ll live a lot longer. I’ve seen so many changes in the world. I’ve lost more than I ever thought I could and still be sane, much less alive.”
“So why is what you’ve been through with Darrow any different?” Hammer pressed. “You lost your whole family and it didn’t destroy you. You’ve survived a hell of a lot.”
“Yeah. We all have. But I’m the commander of this unit. All the suffering the Pack has endured is my responsibility, and I don’t know how much more I can stand. It’s an accumulation of everything, to be honest. I got Selene back, and I’m beyond grateful we’re mending things between us; don’t get me wrong. But after Darrow . . .”
His friend remained silent, and Nick put it as simply as he could.
“I’m just tired, John,” he said quietly.
It was several moments before the other man spoke. “I get that. Hell, I’ve been there, too. But you can’t quit.”
Turning, he faced Hammer again, taking in the worry on his face. “I’m so damned tired, all I want is for the world to wake up tomorrow without me in it.”
Hammer shook his head. “Tough shit. Not going to happen. So, now’s a good time to think of Plan B.”
Nick laughed softly in spite of himself. “Maybe.”
“Definitely.” He held out a hand. “Give me the gun tucked in the back of your jeans.”
“What if I run into a grizzly?”
“He’ll run if he knows what’s good for him. In fact, I’m positive you’ll be the most dangerous predator out there. Gun. Now.”
The man wasn’t going to budge. Anger surged as he tugged the weapon from his waistband and placed it in his friend’s hand, butt first. He tamped it down, though. Hammer—John—had always looked out for him. He wasn’t going to stop, especially now that Nick was in a crisis.
Hammer’s gaze softened. “Thanks. See you when you get back.”
They both understood that if Nick was truly done, no force on earth could make him stay. Many immortals—vampires and born shifters included—met their demise by their own hands sooner or later. Forever wasn’t all it was imagined to be.
But as Nick stripped off his clothing and shifted, then took off through the forest, he knew his friend was right—Nick did care. Maybe too much.
Whether that would prove to be his downfall or his salvation remained to be seen.
Calla Shaw swept through the corridors, fuming.
Gods! What the hell has that high-handed, arrogant brother of mine gotten me into now? Who does he think he is?
Just because Tarron Romanoff was the leader of their coven—as well as prince of all the vampires in North America—didn’t mean he had the right to tamper with her life. To destroy her hard-won peace.
Even their toughest guards had the good sense to move out of her way as they took in her murderous glare. She usually considered herself a calm, pleasant person, but that flew out the window with the phone call she’d received. Eviscerating her brother with a rusty spike sounded like a pretty good idea.
When she barged in, Tarron was seated behind his desk in his office, reading some papers, head down, shoulder-length dark brown hair falling around his face. The door banged into the wall and his head snapped up, expression startled.
“Calla! What’s wrong?” He stood.
“What’s wrong?” She stared at him incredulously. “Are you serious? I get a phone call from the Russian vampire prince himself thanking me very enthusiastically for inviting him to our party, saying he’s looking forward to seeing me, and you ask what’s wrong?”
“Calm down and have a seat, would you?”
“I’ll calm down when you tell me you aren’t playing matchmaker.” When he shifted in his chair, surprise turning to guilt, she marched up to his desk. “Way to throw me face-first under the bus, big brother.”
“Rolan Stanislav is a great catch,” he said defensively.
“That old fogie is nine hundred years old!”
“So what? We’re over four hundred, which doesn’t exactly make us spring chickens,” he said evenly. “You know very well he’s quite attractive, and any number of female vamps would kill to mate with him.”
That, at least, was the truth. Rolan was tall, powerful, with long white blond hair and jade green eyes. She didn’t know him very well personally, but he was widely considered kind and honorable. Admirable.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t Stefano. The thought of replacing her dead mate made her sick with guilt, though it had been decades since he was killed.
She shook herself from taking that nightmare trip down memory lane. “Then they’re welcome to him.”
“Just one problem with that—he wants you. Has for ages, Calla, ever since he recovered from his mate’s death. How long are you going to avoid him? Hell, not just him but the entire male population?”
“I don’t care what he or anyone else wants! European vampires are stuck in the Middle Ages when it comes to just about everything, including their views on women.” That wasn’t necessarily true anymore, and it felt like the lame excuse it was. She crossed her arms over her chest. “I’m not mating with him and that’s final.”
“I’m not asking you to mate with him. Just meet with him, socialize a bit. Give him a chance, for me? He’s a suitable match who would bring two vampire covens together as one unbeatable force. Nobody would mess with us then.”
“Nobody would mess with us now,” she insisted. “Except for Carter and his band of thugs, there isn’t anyone who’s dared in the past seventy years.”
“I never take our safety for granted.” His lips thinned in anger.
“Neither do I. But I’m sure there’s another way to merge with another powerful coven besides selling me to the highest bidder.”
At that, he looked shocked and hurt. “I would never suggest such a thing. Calla, I love you. I just want to see you happy again.”
“And if you can kill two birds with one stone, all the better?”
“Yes. Is that so wrong?”
No, it wasn’t. Her outrage evaporated like smoke as she studied her brother. Tarron truly loved her, and their coven. She had never doubted that. Every day, he put his own happiness on hold to make certain they were all safe and prosperous. He worked harder than anyone she knew.
And she suddenly noted something about him. There was a shadow in his eyes she’d never seen before. Perhaps it was worry, or melancholy.
Slowly, she lowered herself into a chair. “Do you have reason to believe we’re going to be threatened?”
“Nothing specific,” he admitted. “But I’ve been uneasy. There’s a feeling of foreboding that I can’t quite shake. As though Carter’s death was too easy, and there’s something waiting in the shadows. Like the old saying goes, if you kill one cockroach in the kitchen, there’s a million more behind the walls. I can’t explain it better than that.”
His words gave her a chill, and she rubbed her arms. “We’ve got good allies in the Alpha Pack.”
Unbidden, a mental picture of the Pack’s sexy commander popped into her head. She tried to ignore it—and struggled not to think about how he’d spun on his heel and walked away after meeting her. As if she’d offended him with her presence. The dismissal still stung.
Tarron nodded. “Yes. And I’m glad about that. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind having them around all the time, but Nick needs his men there. They’ve got a job to do.”
“True, but their purpose isn’t so different from ours. They fight to protect others from harm so we can all live peacefully. They’re a family, like us.”
“Yes, but they’re not vampires.”
He scowled. “I didn’t mean that they’re less because they’re shifters, just that they don’t hold the same loyalty to us as our own kind would.”
“That’s your opinion, with no proof to support it.”
Her brother merely shrugged. “I’m grateful for their friendship, and I know they’d come if we needed them. I just don’t see the harm in our coven being bigger and stronger.”
“How about ‘the bigger they are, the harder they fall’? Ever heard that one?”
“Gods, you wear me out.” He rubbed his eyes, then leveled a piercing look at her. “So, will you make nice with Rolan at the party?”
“Seeing as you’re not going to let this rest until I do, I’ll agree. But only to be cordial, nothing more,” she warned him.
Tarron gave her the brilliant smile that turned other females’ knees to jelly. Calla had to admit it was pretty potent. Until she remembered what a jerk he could be sometimes.
Coming around the desk, he wrapped her in a hug. “Thank you. I promise the Russian prince will be a perfect gentleman. And if you really don’t have any feelings for him, I won’t push. Either way, it still won’t hurt to have a strong ally.”
“All right, I can’t argue with that.”
Laughing, she pulled back and pecked him on the cheek. “Talk to you later.”
Throwing Tarron a smile, she took her leave. It was hard to stay angry at her brother. But her amusement quickly faded as she replayed their conversation in her head. Even if she were ready to move on, to take another mate or even simply a lover, she’d never felt a pull toward Rolan.
Not like she’d experienced when she’d met Nick Westfall a few days ago. They’d been introduced and he’d taken her hand—and it was like she’d been pumped with a million volts of electricity. From the shock on the wolf shifter’s handsome, rugged face, he’d felt it as well.
And he’d been none too pleased, if his hasty exit was any indication.
Sadness nearly overwhelmed her in that moment, tears pricking her eyes, and she wasn’t sure why. She’d met the man for all of thirty seconds, and didn’t know him from Adam. So why was there a gaping hole in her chest?
A desperate need to escape overwhelmed her. Sometimes the coven’s mountain stronghold in the Smokies was more of a prison than a home. Going against her brother’s standing directive, she used her gift of translocation to avoid her bodyguards and take herself away from there. Far away. She knew exactly where she wanted to be, and when she landed a few seconds later, she stood in a gorgeous copse of trees in the middle of the Shoshone National Forest hundreds of miles from the coven.
Home to the Alpha Pack. And the wolf commander.
What was this compulsion? This aching need to be near him? The last time she’d felt this way had been . . . when she met Stefano. Her throat burned with grief at the thought of what that might mean.
There was a certain peace in being cold and numb. In allowing every limb and organ to remain frozen so that the pain could never sneak in again. The idea of finally allowing the thaw was beyond her comprehension at this point. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to let another man inside her heart. Or whether she was capable.
She wandered for a while, enjoying the lush forest with its greenery. Insects buzzed and various birds chattered. The day wasn’t too hot, a balmy breeze moving the leaves and branches. At last she came to a break on a rise and sucked in a breath at the beautiful Rocky Mountains in the distance. The sight was simply gorgeous.
But not nearly as breathtaking as the man sitting in the grass on the edge of the knoll, looking out over the vast expanse as though trying his best to ascertain the secrets of the world. His profile was strong and almost regal, with a square jaw and dark eyebrows arching over a straight nose that sat perfectly on his rugged face. His inky hair was touched with silver at his temples. He had a set of broad shoulders, and she remembered he was tall when standing, well over six feet.
One of his jean-clad legs was stretched out in the grass, the other bent at the knee. Compelled by some unnamed force, she approached and spotted a wicked-looking dagger with a pearl handle sitting on the ground at his side. Frowning, she studied it, then looked back to the commander. She could have sworn she scented blood—a sweet, heady aroma that she recognized was pure Nick. But she didn’t see any blood.
Finally, he lifted his wary gaze and acknowledged her presence. “Calla.”
Excerpted from "Wolf's Fall"
Copyright © 2014 J.D. Tyler.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Alpha Pack novels:
“Readers will fall head over heels.”—New York Times Bestselling Author Angela Knight
“J. D. Tyler…a force to be reckoned with…Kept me riveted from start to finish.”—Night Owl Reviews
"Fast-paced and passionate adventure is a hallmark of Tyler’s writing.”—RT Book Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
J.D. Tyler brings readers another great book in the Alpha Pack series, Wolf's Fall. This is book six and features the leader of the pack, Nick Westfall. Readers who follow the series know Nick as the pack Alpha who has been through a lot both physically and emotionally. In Wolf's Fall Nick finds his mate in the vampire princess, Calla, but their relationship is not without it's obstacles. Tyler gives readers a multi-layered story that is both complex and riveting. The passion between the characters is palpable and readers will be quickly lost in the beauty of this story. A great addition to the series. What I liked: If you've been a fan of this series, then I am certain you have been waiting with bated breath for this book. Nick's story has been a long time coming and it was well worth the wait. J.D. Tyler has given readers a very special wolf in pack leader, Nick Westfall, he is the only born wolf in the pack and is the ultimate leader, but because of recent events he has lost confidence in himself and in his ability to lead. His emotions in the beginning of the book are very much in turmoil and he is a danger even to himself. He was the definition of a tortured hero. Tyler must have known that Nick's story had to be very special. It had to be passionate but also easy to engage with and I think a lot of readers will sympathize with Nick's worries if not with his way of solving them. Calla is the perfect mate for this Alpha but because of his recent torture at the hands of a vampire, he is reminded over and over of what happened to him when he is near her. They both have their own demons to conquer and eventually they begin to see each other not as shifters and vampires, but as a man and a woman who have feelings for each other. I didn't like the idea that Nick might need a woman to pull him out of his depression or that it was necessary to have someone in order to do that and I was glad that Tyler let Calla comfort him and be with him, but she was not his salvation. He had to find that within himself and I was happy that's the way the author chose to go with that part of the story. There is action and of course a lot of steam in this book, it would not be Alpha Pack if there wasn't. That is always one of my favorite parts of the book, finding out what the entire team has gotten themselves mixed up in now. This time it is keeping a vampire war at bay. This was essential to the story even though the focus was on the romance in this book. I liked getting to know Calla's family better in this one and finding out what was going with them as well. Bottom Line: This is a great paranormal romance series and this is one of the best books so far. Tyler does such a good job with characterization and her portrayal of Nick was a joy to read. He was the epitome of a tortured hero, but in mind and spirit and I loved watching him come back to himself and find the will to go on. Calla was a great heroine for him. She stood toe to toe with him and he needed that.
3.5 Stars I have mixed feelings about this book. When I started reading the Alpha Pack series, I instantly fell in love with the characters, their mission and the exciting plots that captured my attention in each story. After the third book, I noticed the dynamics of the story starting to change. The fourth and fifth books were not as enjoyable as the previous ones. My interest began waning with the introduction of vampires into the series. Don’t get me wrong, I love vampires and I enjoy the new characters but something was changed for me. The stories were pretty much forgotten and I was very saddened by that. I felt a little bit of that magic as I read WOLF’S FALL. I thought the plot was good and I loved the introduction of new characters but what kept me from really loving this book was that I felt things were wrapped up too quickly or completely glossed over without adequate explanation or satisfaction. I can’t give examples without revealing spoilers so I apologize for my overt vagueness. What really drove me crazy were all the questions I have now that the book is over. Whether it was accidental or done purposely to draw out the mystery, I’ll never know. Yes, I had some issues with the story, but I am also chomping at the bit for more! What a clever, clever author you are J.D. Tyler. I’m looking forward to what you have in store for the boys of Alpha Pack. ***I was gifted an eBook copy from the publisher via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. All conclusions reached are my own***
Nick's book stole the show!
Great series. Love the action, sexy romance and characters. Glad Nick found Calla. On to number seven!
Loved every page, couldn't put the book down.
I love how the story continues where it leaves off. I also love all the characters, twist and turns.
Nick and Calla were perfect. Loved their story and struggles to be together.
Love in the mist of danger and revenge. An alpha wolf finds love for a second time.
Since this is an audio review, let me start there. Marguerite Gavin narrates this book. Looking at the previous books, she is new to this series. I haven't heard the rest of the books so I can only talk about my experience with this book but I don't think it was a great change. I didn't enjoy her voices. Particularly, Nicks voice. She made him sound like a grouchy old man. I guess as a 200 year old natural born shifter, he is old but it doesn't show at all, otherwise. Anyway, I don't think I would listen to another book by this narrator. I started this series in book 5, Cole's Redemption. The ending of that one set-up this one and I was interested in how a wolf that had been tortured by a vamp would ever be okay with a vamp as his mate. So I picked this one to find out. I enjoyed this world where a top secret pack of shifters protects the world from paranormal problems. Nick is a great leader who has faced more than a few struggles in his over 200 years. That makes the story serious and full of battle. It's also full of sexy times every time Nick and his new mate Calla find themselves alone. Didn't matter if that was under a waterfall or in a cabin alone. These two are hot together. The larger story of the group in the series moves forward as well. I am missing pieces as I didn't read the first 4 books but it makes sense anyway. I enjoy the other characters even if I don't know all their back history. It was nice to see Zan again. I'm glad he's doing better. If you love the paranormal romance with a side of extra hot and sexy, then this book will appeal to you.
I recommend all the books in this series. They are just a little bit different from the norm, enough to give you a good read. This is the last so far, so I would advise reading others first.
4.25 stars-WOLF’S FALL is the sixth installment in JD Tyler’s contemporary, adult Alpha Pack paranormal romance series focusing on a top secret team of wolf shifters-The Alpha Pack. The series history reveals that a group of psychic Navy Seals had been biologically enhanced and experimentally forced into a lifestyle not of their choosing, waking to a new world as shifters and wolves. Finding there way back, they will come under the command of Nick Westfall and his Pack. WOLF’S FALL is Alpha Pack Commander Nick Westfall and vampire princess Calla Shaw’s storyline. Although this is the sixth book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone without too much difficulty. Any important information is imparted where necessary. JD Tyler provides some history and pertinent background information as the story develops. Nick is a reluctant commander. He is tired, depressed and as leader of the Alpha Pack he sees himself as a failure. Nick suffers from PTSD-held prisoner and tortured, years earlier, by a sadistic vampire-Nick is broken and damaged. He knows Calla is his mate but losing his first mate to the vampire who destroyed his life, Nick refuses to accept and claim Calla as his own. To complicate matters Nick is reluctant to allow Calla to feed from his vein as it brings back too many horrific and shameful memories. The relationship between Calla and Nick is one of immediate attraction. Calla and Nick know that each is the other’s mate but Nick’s reluctance to accept Calla and the encroaching vampire war finds our couple teaming together to save both the coven and the Pack. Both Calla and Nick have previously loved and lost; finding new mates is as much a surprise to both. The sex scenes are intimate, seductive and energetic. Told from third person point of view, the storyline follows a war on the horizon. Vampires and werewolves will be forced to work together to save the people that they know and love but a powerful unknown foe and a coven of rogue vampires has targeted Nick, Calla and Calla’s brother Prince Tarron for destruction. Several wolves and vampires will face their immortality in the ensuing battle. JD Tyler’s storylines consist of an ensemble cast of characters including wolves, vampires, jinn, sorcerers, shifters and more; many of the previous storyline couples play a secondary role throughout the premise and building story. My only complaint is the number of times our hero (and other Alpha Pack storyline heroes) must face the possibility of death. For a leader and alpha Nick seems powerless against most of his enemies; he lays injured, tortured or dying on numerous occasions and his fellow warriors appear to face their immortality just as often (in this book and others). I think this team of former Navy Seals is in need of some more combat training. ;) Also, if a man has black hair and dark eyes, why would he shift into a white wolf? Would it not make sense that the hair color in human form match the color of the shifter wolf coat? Hmmmmm ! JD Tyler’s world of shifters and vampires is full of action, suspense, romance and love. The characters are colorful, fallible, passionate and controversial. The Alpha Pack soldiers are honorable warriors who are willing to die to protect their leader and friends. Vampires are a new addition to the series-introduced in book five Cole’s Redemption-and with it comes a new direction for the storylines.
NUMBER OF HEARTS: 3 1/2 REVIEW: ***Warning*** If you have not read Cole’s Redemption you may not want to read this book yet. The events that happened in book 5 shape the dynamic of book 6. You have been warned. I will do my best to keep the review spoiler free for those who have not read book 5 yet. ***End of Warning*** Wolf’s Fall picks up after the devastating events in Cole’s Redemption. I can remember reading Cole’s Redemption thinking how on earth could Ms. Tyler let this happen to Nick. Not my big strong Nick. But at last it did happen and Nick has to try to move on. Which is not an easy thing for him to do. Through in the fact that he just met his mate and she is of all things a vampire. Wolf’s Fall took me on a lot of highs and lows. Lows as to how low Nick really is. Highs that Calla is there for him. Lows of the suffering that Calla has to endure. Highs that Nick finally sees the light. All in all this was a very good book and a really quick read for me. There were just a few holes in the story for me. Things moved very quickly, which is fine but I would have like to see more relationship building. Even with that I am so very very glad that Nick got his story and hope that this will lead him on the path of healing. If you are a fan of the Alpha Pack you will surely enjoy Nick’s book, especially after Cole’s Redemption. Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley & PENGUIN GROUP Berkley, NAL / Signet Romance, DAW in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.
Rules-no powers please except for telepathy and telekenises. and no godmodding. Please be active and tell if you will be gone for more than a few days. <p> Map-res one main camp.....res two map.....res three bios.....res four bios add on.....res five alpha den.....res six hunters and gaurds den.....res seven trainees den.....res eight med wolfs den.....res nine pup mothes and pups den.....res ten elder den.....res eleven prisoner fort.....res twelve and beyond forest Daring Pack terretore. <p> Ranks-alpha male.....alpha female.....beta male.....beta female.....gaurds.....hunters.....trainees.....med wolf.....pup mothers.....pips.....elders.....prisoners. any questions?= ask Jordan or Kistir.
Is this a clan for cats or wolves?