Rynn Murphy thought she knew what she wanted until a vicious attack leaves her bitten…and changed. But she doesn’t have to face this transformation alone—she has her mate by her side. And the charming Briggs is eager to ease her into this new life and mend her battered soul.
With only weeks to adjust to her new fur, Rynn begins to understand what it truly means to be mated to the Beta of the wolves when they’re forced to hunt for an enemy who has abducted an innocent.
But this mission is not without danger. And soon, they discover the ones who have taken this young wolf do not want her found and will stop at nothing to keep her hidden. Rynn and Briggs will have to lean on each other as they hunt and learn that the bite was only the beginning.
The damp ground parted under Rynn’s sharp claws and the wind breezed steadily across her fur. Sounds of the world came sharp through alert ears. Quiet noises hidden to human ears sounded crystal-clear with these new senses of hers–brushes of air against the trees, bugs crawling along the earth, even a deer nibbling on grass a mile away.
She scanned her surroundings, her acute vision taking in everything around her. The sharp colors, shapes, everything was just so powerful as a wolf. It made everything brighter–more vivid.
Her four legs trembled as the force of magic swept through her in pure need to find her human form. She reminded herself of her small framed curvy body, long brown hair, deep silver eyes, and cheeks she always thought were a little too chubby.
This was the most difficult part about being a werewolf and the control over the wolf within her was a struggle. Of course, it would be since she’d been thrust into this life only a few days ago. She shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Still, it came with frustration that the shift came as a challenge.
It didn’t help much that Rynn’s focus was off–still reeling from a conversation she had only an hour ago with new friends, Nexi and Kyden. To the supernatural world, they were Guardians. Well, Nexi was part Witch too. They’re also part of the Council’s Guard–the leaders of the Otherworld. As Guardians, they policed the supernatural races that live within the Earthworld.
The memory of the shocking conversation replayed in her mind.
Nothing about Nexi was normal. Sure, her to-die-for body, dirty blonde locks, country home girl features were all the same, but it was her hazel eyes that sank Rynn’s heart. The spunkiness that lived within them was gone–darkness and despair was all to be seen. Something wasn’t right.
“Nexi?” Rynn questioned, as she examined her further.
What was going on here? This wasn’t how she remembered Nexi. The Nexi she met was full of zest, happiness, and extremely strong in confidence, not the anguished woman before her.
Sure, she didn’t know her all that well–they’d only met a few nights ago after the brutal attack in her hometown of Plymouth, Minnesota, that now allowed her to stand on all fours.
After she first experienced herself in fluffy form, she was too frightened to shift back to her human form, too terrified to accept that this was now her life. Then came Nexi who shared her story, which in turn, showed they had very similar paths. Both were normal young women who came from rural cities in the United States who had awakened to the world of the supernatural.
The connection with Nexi was instant. The bond of friendship allowed the fear to settle in Rynn and kept her to calm enough for the magic to release her back to human form, which was an entirely desperate situation.
If she hadn’t been able to shift back, the wolf within her would have taken over, which would have caused her to go mad. Crazed by the animal inside her that would need to seek out blood and kill. If that happened, Valor would have to destroy her. Needless to say, Nexi was a Godsend.
Rynn was happy to note that Valor had no intention of harming her. As the Patriarch, ruler over the Alphas of the United States it would have fallen on him to take care of her. He fit the part of Alpha too. He was big and powerful with strong shoulders, thick dark hair and dark eyes that demanded you kneel at his feet. Rynn often wondered if that was the power he held over her as a wolf, or if that was just his thing. She still hadn’t figured it out.
Rynn knew enough about Nexi to know something was off. She searched deeper into Nexi’s eyes for any sign of the woman she had met. Finding none, she glanced at Briggs, bewildered. “Something is terribly wrong. What’s happened?”
Kyden cleared his throat, drawing Rynn’s gaze to his. Kyden was always serious but calm. He wore his warrior look well. It wasn’t just his sculpted body and strong cut features–it was his aura. Tonight however, he seemed weakened–distraught. “It has become known that Nexi is the destined to Magnus.”
Briggs interjected before Rynn could comprehend Valor’s words, his brows raised in surprise. “Magnus, as in The Lord of the Underworld?”
Kyden gave a firm nod, his jaw clenched tight.
Rynn didn’t understand any of this. “But I thought…” she hesitated, remembering the past few days. The last she heard, Nexi had accepted Kyden as her mate. They were to be bonded soon–a marriage of non-supernaturals. She cleared her mind and asked, “Aren’t you being bonded soon?”
Kyden nodded again. “Indeed we are.”
Rynn glanced at Briggs who looked desolate. “What does that mean?” She couldn’t comprehend any of this. Nothing made sense.
“Destined bonds overrule the bonds of the heart,” Briggs replied, his eyes sad.
That was all that needed to be said for Rynn to understand. Nexi’s time with Kyden would soon to be over. She could see the heartbreak in every pair of eyes around her. No matter how much Nexi loved Kyden, wanted him, her soul wouldn’t allow it.
Rynn wanted to know more, but it wasn’t her place to interrogate them. A sense of dread filled her as something else bothered her. Rynn glanced at Briggs, needing clarification. “There is an Underworld? Like demons and scary things like that?”
Briggs nodded hesitantly.
She suspected he never told her because she was just coming around to the idea of there being an Otherworld. Home to Werewolves, Vampires, Guardians and Witches. Even though, the only ones allowed to live there worked for the Council directly, all others, including the werewolves, lived in the Earthworld. The Otherworld was nothing to be afraid of and she’d seen for herself that what existed there was good. But she knew enough to know anything that lived within the Underworld couldn’t be good. Even if she didn’t know for sure, the horrified expressions around her would have told her as much.
Still, she couldn’t wrap her head around it all. She needed more answers.
“And you are going to be mated to their leader?” As Nexi gave a soft nod, Rynn’s mystification turned into disparity. She had enough common sense to understand that this is about as bad as it gets.
“We have to do something to help you.” Nexi had been nothing but kind to Rynn, she saved her life, and Rynn felt compelled to do the same. She glanced at Briggs. “What can we do to help her?”
Briggs sighed, and the simple sound said it all . Nexi didn’t stand a chance at overcoming this. Rynn breathed deep, tears filled her eyes. Instead of comforting her, Briggs stepped toward Nexi, reached down and embraced her. He hugged tight and looked at Rynn, “Nothing I’m afraid, darlin’.”
Just as his grip tightened, Nexi stiffened immensely and Kyden ripped Nexi from his arms, latched onto her.
Kyden glanced over Nexi’s head. “She needs the connection.”
“He can’t let me go,” Nexi whispered.
Rynn’s stomach clenched in horror. It was already that lost. The full reality of the situation hit.
Nexi was losing herself without Kyden’s contact. Her mind drifted from the love they shared. Rynn would have thought it strange, if she’d hadn’t felt it for herself. The mate bond was powerful. Her own connection with Briggs showed her that. She understood what was happening–it wouldn’t be long before Nexi’s heart belonged to another.
After a moment of silence, Kyden said, “We have some news of the attack on Rynn.”
Briggs gave Kyden a curious look. “The attack on Rynn?”
Rynn was equally confused. She assumed the wolf had attacked her, bit her, then left her there when he was finished. She wasn’t expecting there to be more.
Before she could ask, Nexi whispered, “It was the beginning.”
“The beginning of what?” Rynn exclaimed.
Kyden looked at Briggs. “A revolution in the Underworld.”
“Against Magnus?” Briggs inquired.
Kyden nodded. “You know of the Warlock, Pye?”
“Aye,” Briggs replied, then looked at Rynn. “He’s a powerful Warlock who wants to rule the Underworld, but has never succeeded to gain control.”
Kyden continued, “To dethrone Magnus, Pye needed to further his strength. His followers bewitched wolves to kill women of a pure nature.”
Rynn blushed. It was true that the night of the attack, the man had stolen the one thing that would forever scar her soul. He stole her virginity–her purity. “So…” she said hesitantly, reminded of the horror of that night, and also trying to piece together this new information. “If they needed their virginity, why did they…” she paused again and gulped deeply. “Take it away.”
“It was the process. By taking the woman’s virginity, they were draining the purity of the soul. It’s how they gained power from it.” Nexi replied.
Rynn placed her hands on her heart, confused. “But I still have my soul.” She glanced at Briggs. “Don’t I?”
Briggs wrapped his arm around her. “Of course you do, darlin’.” Then, he looked at Kyden. “Why did they go to such measures as to overtaking these wolves, and not just do it themselves?”
Kyden embraced Nexi tighter, and she melted into him. “If the Witches were not killing themselves, Magnus would not know Pye was plotting against him. It was a decoy.”
Rynn couldn’t put it all together. “Why then? Why do I still have my soul?”
“Magnus destroyed the wolf attacking you before he could drain you,” Kyden replied, his tone cold.
Rynn glanced at Briggs, who looked equally befuddled. “Why would he do that?” She never met or heard of this Magnus. Why would he help her?
Rynn glanced back at Nexi as she continued. “Magnus knew of Pye’s plan and intervened to stop him. He knew of my relationship with Valor and helped Rynn so that I would be close to Valor. Then, he stole Dante’s soul knowing that I would do anything to get it back. He agreed to return it to me, only if I destroyed his only threat in the Underworld, Pye.” Tears filled her eyes, her lip quivered. “Now, of course we know that wasn’t the only reason he wanted me close.”
Briggs growled deep and low. “To know the danger that was caused because of Magnus’ desires.” He growled again. “And Dante’s life could have been lost. Now, you…” His voice drifted away, sadness filled his expression.
Rynn remained silent. What could she say? This was horrible.
“Valor had not made me aware that Dante was in danger at the time and said nothing of it until he returned with him intact. As he told to me, Nexi had killed Pye in return of Dante’s soul.” Briggs clenched his teeth. “I should have been there to help her, Maybe I could have changed the outcome so Nexi wouldn’t be in this situation.”
Nexi shook her head. “There is nothing you could have done.”
Rynn put a hand on Briggs’ arm. As he glanced down at her, some of the torment running through him eased, immediately.
He looked torn as he said, “If Magnus hadn’t concocted this plan of his, Rynn’s life would have been lost the night she was attacked but now, Nexi is losing hers.” He finally looked away from Rynn and glanced at Nexi. “This comes with mixed feelings.”
“I know,” Nexi replied just as soft. She reached forward, kept her hand connected with Kyden and hugged Briggs. “I wouldn’t change any of this if it meant Rynn survived.” Her gaze hit Rynn’s. “Remember that.”
Pulled back into the present, Rynn’s heart throbbed in pain for Nexi and Kyden, probably because she could relate. She had someone taken from her too.
Her Grandfather, Pops, had been stolen years ago by the crippling horror of Alzheimer’s. It’s the reason she took all this werewolf business in stride. There wasn’t only herself to think about here. Rynn wasn’t selfish.
Besides, thanks to Valor, Pops now resided in an upscale hospital in Utah. That reason was why she sucked up this wolf stuff and accepted it. He’s somewhere better and nicer. That was her priority.
When she was four, Pops stepped in to raise her when her parents decided being junkies was more important. Did they object? No. Why would they? Drugs ruled their lives.
Pops was the kindest, gentlest soul on earth and treated her like a treasure growing up. Now because of his disease he couldn’t even remember her. He was like a vacant vessel. Gone forever, yet still alive. A cruel disease in every way. Death would’ve been better, but Rynn would never admit to that. She needed him. Loved him.
Still, she hadn’t had the chance to go and see him yet, since she was too unstable as a werewolf. The danger for him was too great if she shifted before his eyes. She wouldn’t risk his life. But it didn’t make it any easier to deal with. She missed him with an ache in her heart that left her empty.
Luckily, someone had made it his job to fill that ache. Her mate Briggs, who nuzzled his damp nose into her side.
It’s a strange thing to meet your soul-mate and instantly fall in love, but that’s exactly what happened. Briggs couldn’t have said it better in the conversation with Nexi and Kyden–your destined mate overrules everything else. Trust is born in the very moment you accept it.
Not only is he sweet, but also sexy as hell. She couldn’t have chosen a better mate for herself. Letting fate take the wheel wasn’t a hard thing to do.
He brushed up against her again. The contact with his nose on her side was an instant connection to force the change within her. Her breath caught as the pure rush hit, sending her elongated vision to become foggy. The sharp scents around her returned to normal levels, and her hearing hushed as she found her human form.
Surprisingly, there wasn’t anything painful about the transformation. Just more of a shift in senses–everything weakened as a human. Within seconds of the blast of magic, the change occurred. No bones breaking or muscles tightening, it was over before Rynn even knew it began. As an added bonus, after the shift, her clothes appeared back on her body. How that worked, Rynn still hadn’t figured out, but she was glad for it. Walking around in her birthday suit didn’t hold much appeal.
When her eyes opened, she found Briggs’ smile. His yellow eyes were tight with joy, his sharp angled face was cocked to the side with his brown hair spiked messily, and his lips were soft and inviting with a perfect curve.
He made everything all right–everything less scary. She felt right where she belonged. No matter what happened, she would always have him to make life good. Sometimes hearing how quickly love can be taken away, as she’d seen with Kyden and Nexi, made her appreciate just how lucky she is.
“Getting easier to shift isn’t it, darlin’?” Briggs asked.
Rynn gave a half-hearted shrug. “A little, but I think it’s because of your touch. I doubt I could do that without it.”
“My contact is just helping filter the magic through our bond, stabilizing you. Don’t worry, it will come. Just give it time.”
Time. That was the thing. They’d spent days working on controlling her wolf and getting to know each other, considering they were together for a lifetime.
A long lifetime at that. That’s just another surprise she had to swallow. Werewolves were immortal, which meant, she was too. Having Briggs around made the acceptance easier. A thousand life times with him wasn’t hard to take.
He said that he’d be everything she needed or wanted, and he sure lived up to it. His focus was for her alone and it’d been a long time since she had someone to depend on.
After a sigh of settlement, she glanced out to the beauty around her. Valor’s log ranch style house was her home now, located in Cache Valley, Utah, set deep in a valley surrounded by evergreens and uninhabited land.
She couldn’t argue it was a big step up, and one she’d become quite used to. After Pops got sick, which was close to her eighteenth birthday, she ended up living on her own. Needless to say, it is far from glamorous.
The money Pops had gathered through his life was scarce and only provided for a year of his care. With the few hundred left over, she moved into a one-room suite at Hotel Shit Hole with lovely neighbors such as drug addicts, strippers and runaways.
As friendly as the runaways were, she couldn’t connect with them. She would have given anything to have a family that loved her. And even more, ones who remembered her.
So that was her life. Working at a coffee shop, restaurant and a bar to keep the bills paid at the nursing home, keep her fed, a roof over her head and clothes on her back. Mindless work, but she needed the money and slapped a smile on her face every day. No matter how sad she felt inside.
Now, experiencing all this, going back to the slums didn’t appeal to her and there wasn’t a single thing she missed about Plymouth, Minnesota.
Briggs sighed deeply, drawing Rynn’s gaze. He focused on their joined hands. As of late, this uneasiness in him grew. If she hadn’t been able to sense it through their mate bond–which was just an added bonus, saved the unknowns in the relationship–she’d see it written hard on his face. “What’s wrong?”
He glanced out to the paddock of horses that rested alongside Valor’s home. Then, he looked back to meet her gaze. “I have a duty that I need to return to.”
“You have to go back to work?” Rynn asked with hesitation. She understood that he worked for Valor. Briggs was his Beta–what that all entailed she still wasn’t sure.
His nodded softly. “Valor has been kind to let me have a few days off so I can be with you and tend to your needs, but it is necessary that I return in my duties to him.”
Fear tingled through her and tension filled her body. She couldn’t be without him. This crazy situation was only okay with him beside her. He couldn’t leave her alone–ever.
Without warning, a familiar sense of power sucked her breath back into her body. Her stomach clenched, her entire body shivered as a loud moan escaped her mouth. Her senses sharpened.
Briggs’ smile was kind as he looked down to her now fluffy form. “Now don’t go doing that.”
This was a perfect display of why seeing Pops was out of the question. When her emotions ran high, she’d shift. A big no-no in the werewolf world. They never shifted in front of humans. Their existence a secret for obvious reasons, since humans are curious creatures, and who knows what they’d do to werewolves if they captured one.
Briggs caressed her furry head slowly, giving her a chastising look. “You’ll come with me wherever I go.”
Rynn leaned into his hand. Instantly, it calmed and settled her nerves. His touch felt wonderful. But it was only good, if he moved slowly. If he rushed it, it was game over. She was still shaken by her attack and touches still scared her.
Had she dealt with it? No.
Did she want to? No.
Was she going to have to? Yes.
But not right now.
Briggs’ voice was low and soft. “Come back to me now.”
Rynn closed her eyes and let the magic release. Calmness washed over her as she focused back on her human form–remembered her features, the senses a human holds–the weakness of it. Briggs’ touch helped. His contact seemed to steady the magic. Force it out. It took a few minutes, but she eventually shimmied back to herself.
“I get to come with you?” she whispered, glancing down.
He placed a finger under her chin, lifted her gaze to meet his. “You think I’d leave ya behind?”
The look on his face told her how ridiculous that notion that was, but how could she think otherwise. “I did.”
His fingers left her chin, softly caressed the edge of her jaw. “I know you haven’t had anyone to count on in some time, and those that you should have been able to count on have failed you.” Fierceness flashed through his eyes. “I will not be one of them. You can trust in that.”
She sighed, from the pain of truth those words held, but also from the knowledge that she could always depend on Briggs. It was nice to have that to rely on.
A growl rose from deep in his throat. “It disgusts me to hear of your upbringing.” He shook his head in revulsion and dropped his hand from her face. “Those parents of yours.”
“It’s not really their fault, you know,” she replied in earnest. “They can’t help it. Drug addiction is a disease. I don’t hold anything against them for it.”
Briggs’ jaw clenched, his eyes narrowed. “You are very kind to offer them forgiveness for mistreating you. No matter how you look at it, that is exactly what they’ve done and in the eyes of some that can never be forgiven.”
His eyes flashed angrily. “Especially by me.”