Authors: Rebecca Brochu
Copyright© 2013 Rebecca Brochu
Cover Artist: Sour Cherry Designs
Editor: Marie Medina
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
WARNING: The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be used or reproduced electronically or in print without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.
This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, and places are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
THE ALPHA'S ARDOR
Wolves of Flathead, 1
Copyright © 2013
Declan wanted to head south, had planned to head south the entire time, but the wolf hot on his tail had driven him north against his will. He’d been running for days with the other wolf nipping at his heels with an unusual sense of determination. As often as he and his twin brother Lachlan had been chased out of different territories over the years, he’d never been chased for so long by another wolf.
There’d been one determined set of betas from a puma clowder a few years back that had chased him and Lachlan for a couple days at the order of their alpha, but wolves tended to be different. They didn’t normally stray far from whatever territory their pack had claimed, so Declan and Lachlan had always been able to outrun them in the end.
This was different.
This time the wolf who’d run him out of the territory they’d been in had kept on him long after he and Lachlan had been forced to split up. A handful of days later and still running, Declan was exhausted. Only his superior speed had allowed him to keep one step ahead of the sleek brown wolf that was tailing him so far. Declan wasn’t sure exactly how long he’d been on the move, but the ache in his bones and the exhaustion that was quickly working its way through him told him that he probably didn’t want to know. Still Declan didn’t think he could keep up the pace he’d been forced to set for too much longer.
Breathing ragged, Declan pushed himself harder, forced his legs to keep moving despite the way his paws were beginning to stumble over nothing. He could still hear the other wolf, could smell him when the winds changed, and he knew he was too tired, too hungry and weak, to put up much of a fight. Plus, the still slowly healing wound on his side was draining his strength faster than he wanted to admit. The claw marks were the reason he and Lachlan had tried to barter for some time from the pack the beta that was chasing him belonged to.
They’d run afoul of a bear about a week before, and Declan had taken a heavy paw to the side in an attempt to protect his brother.
Lachlan, wracked with misplaced guilt and anger over the wound, had talked him into seeking out refuge with the pack that they’d caught wind of a short distance to the north. Declan had been reluctant at first, but the thought of finding a territory they could settle in to get some rest, even if it was only for a few weeks, was too tempting to pass up.
It hadn’t ended well to say the least. The alpha had been willing to hear their case, had seemed interested in what Declan had been willing to offer in exchange. Yet as soon as their identities became known, they’d been chased out. As a result the healing that Declan had already done had slowly begun to unravel. The strain his body was being put through had drained the energy he would have normally used for healing, and as a result the wound was unable to close as quickly as it should have.
He wasn’t losing blood anymore but the injury, three deep grooves that were cut into the flesh of his side, throbbed in synch with his heartbeat. The straps of the small pack on his back dug into his side painfully as he ran, but Declan refused to slow down long enough to shimmy out of it. Besides, the bag, a twin to the one his brother carried, was filled with things that he could ill afford to lose if something happened. Things like a change of clothes, a disposable cell phone, cash; things that they’d need to move quickly. Without it he’d be stuck moving around in his wolf form no matter what, that or forced to steal some clothes from somewhere. Theft was something both he and Lachlan tried to avoid for a number of reasons. Mainly it had to do with the fact that the kind of extra attention they would undoubtedly gain was likely to attract hunters.
And once hunters were on their trail they were always hard pressed to shake them. Those people would run a were to ground if they were suspected of having put a paw out of line for even a second.
With some hunters that didn’t even mean they had to hurt someone or anything of that nature. Declan had more than one memory of being run out of towns for various bullshit reasons, but he and Lachlan had always moved on peacefully. It was better than trying to start a fight with a group of insane assholes armed with guns and pouches of wolfsbane. Plus, any hunter who might find out who they actually were would be twice as determined to hunt them down.
A loud howl from entirely too close behind him startled Declan, and he stumbled and went down hard. He yelped as pain flared through his side but he regained his feet quickly, turned his attention back to his surroundings and forced himself to move forward. The wind shifted suddenly, and Declan reared back in surprise and skidded to a halt as his senses screamed at him that he was about to cross the border into another pack’s territory. The sound of the wolf on his tail caused his heart to hammer even harder in his chest and Declan, trapped between a wolf out for his blood and the border to an unknown pack’s territory, had a decision to make.
The wolf behind him snarled, low and threatening as his indecision helped it to close the distance between them even quicker, and Declan made a split second choice. He threw himself over the borderline, turned his muzzle towards the wind, and ran hell bent for where the scent of pack was strongest. He heard the wolf behind him hesitate for a moment before he followed Declan over the line. Declan did his best to ignore the pain in his side and pushed himself to run even faster.
Declan had just skidded his way around a large oak tree when something slammed into his injured side hard. His vision darkened at the sudden burst of agony that tore through him as he went flying and hit the ground with a muffled thud. Declan’s first instinct was to come up snarling, teeth bared and hackles raised, but before he could move he caught the scent of what had hit him.
The scent was strong and thick and male. A potent mix of forest leaves and bitter dark chocolate, it made Declan want to roll over and show his belly, to offer up his neck in submission before such a powerful wolf. Instead he flattened himself out against the ground and squeezed his eyes closed tightly as he tried to fight the dizziness that was closing in around the edges of his mind. If the alpha was going to kill him, there wasn’t much Declan could do about it in the first place. Even in peak condition he didn’t stand a chance against such a powerful wolf on his own. The best he could hope for would be for the alpha to acknowledge the fact that he’d immediately backed down. Hopefully after that he would let Declan speak and plead his case before he made his choice to either kill Declan or chase him out.
Just then Declan heard the brown wolf, the one who’d been chasing him, burst through the underbrush behind him. There was a roar and an answering bark of aggression, and Declan could feel it in the air the moment the two wolves clashed. There were the sounds of fighting, of fangs and claws on fur as they ripped at each other. Then there was a high-pitched yelp and the scent of fresh blood was in the air and the sounds faded. Declan knew the other wolf was still alive, could hear its heart beat in the air around him, but he also knew it was injured.
He wanted to get to his feet, wanted to flee from being trapped between an alpha and a beta who, while now injured, was out for his blood. Instead he curled in on himself as much as he could despite the wound on his side because he knew better. If he ran all he would manage to accomplish would be to give the alpha a chase as well as the brown wolf, something that Declan knew would more than likely end in his death.