Big Bend Wolves
Victoria Danann and Teresa Gabelman
Genre: paranormal romance
Publisher: dba 7th House, Imprint of Andromeda LLC
Date of Publication: 11/09/18
Number of pages: 218
Word Count: 39k
Cover Artist: Victoria Danann
Tagline: Sometimes running away takes you straight to the thing you’re running from.
The Three Rivers Pack has been deeply embedded in Kerrville commerce and society for generations. They own businesses and hold government offices, including that of sheriff. But the influx of retirees and well-to-do building second homes in the Hill Country has squeezed the shifters for room to run.
The only answer is relocation to a less populated locale and that will require making a deal with the pack that holds that territory. The alliance struck by the two alphas is blood seal, a political mating between the Lobos alpha’s daughter and the Three Rivers alpha’s son. It’s the perfect solution that benefits both tribes. Except nobody asked Fleet Ryder and Dani Alvarez if they’re willing. And they aren’t.
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The light was on in the kitchen, which meant Marva was up. When he stepped through the kitchen door not wearing a stitch of clothing, she looked him up and down with a half-smirk and the same lusty interest she’d shown as a teenager. John Ryder thought of himself as being a lucky man to have a mate who loved and craved his body like they were newlyweds, after thirty years together. He returned her smirk with a knowing smile, pulled her in close and kissed her long and deep. When he pulled back, she sighed. He loved that sigh.
“I know that look,” she said.
He kept her tight against his naked body, but pulled his head back to make eye contact. “What look is that?”
“The one that says you’ve made up your mind about something important.”
He broke away and grabbed the clothes he’d left on the bench by the back door. As he began dressing, he said, “Yeah.”
The pensive tone told her everything she needed to know. “And you’re not happy about it.”
She waited patiently while he finished dressing. She’d been with him long enough to know the difference between John, her mate, and John, the alpha.
At the moment he was seeing the world through the filter of pack alpha. He’d speak when he was ready and wouldn’t be rushed.
“Can I have some of that coffee?” he said.
She turned, poured and handed him a mug. “You want breakfast here or are you gonna eat at the café?”
“Café.” He leaned back against the kitchen counter and took a sip before saying, “We have to go.”
“Go?” Marva stopped what she was doing and turned with a question firmly registered in the crease between her brows. “Go where?”
When his pale gray eyes met hers, she recognized the gravity of the moment.
“I mean we have to move,” he said quietly.
Marva sat down heavily at the kitchen table trying to keep her shock from adding to the burden her mate was clearly carrying with stoic pride. “You mean the whole pack.” It wasn’t a question, but a verbal clarification.
Nodding, feeling much older than his years, he simply said, “Yeah.”
It might have come as a surprise to Marva. It would be a surprise to everybody in the pack. And not the good kind. But truthfully, John had been mulling over the problem for years. As alpha, survival of the pack was his responsibility. With an eye on the encroaching population, he knew there was only one way it could end. Move. Or be exposed as shifters with the vast shit chasm that promised.
Since the latter was just not an option, they were going to have to prepare for a whole-pack migration. Several lucrative business enterprises and a lot real estate was about to go up on the market in Kerrville. But first, pack members had to be told. And he wasn’t expecting even the most adventurous of them to be happy about it. The final decision was his and making it meant that he owned the outcome as well.
The pack was gathered in the barn on the Ryder property. Everybody had brought pot luck. They’d tried to enjoy the food and the company, but there was an undercurrent of anxiety because every adult pack member could read the mood of the alpha well enough to know something was up.
When the alpha finally stood and announced his intention to move them, the responding silence was suffocating. No one wanted to argue, but no one wanted to agree either.
At length, one of the elders cleared his throat and said, “Where are we going, John?”
“I can’t say for certain yet, Emmett. But I’ve been considering options for a long time. The biggest issue is that there’s no such thing as a desirable place that isn’t already occupied by a pack.” There were murmurs as people whispered to each other their fears about what that might mean. John held up his hand. “I know. We’ve had a good stay here. Most of us are connected to families who’ve been here since before Texas was a Republic. Most of us have never lived any place else.
“So I’m not saying it’s going to be easy.” It hadn’t escaped the pack’s notice that he hadn’t answered the question. “But I’m thinking Big Bend. Out around Alpine.”
The emotional current that ran through the pack was mixed. Some were fearful about the prospect of packing up and leaving everything for parts unknown. But mixed with that was an undercurrent of excitement.
When things settled down, John went on. “Alpine is a small town, I grant you, but there are opportunities there just like there are opportunities everywhere. We’ll make it work just like we always have.” With a small smile he shook his head just a little. “It’s wild out there. You’ll be free in ways you’ve never been free here.”
“Doesn’t that territory belong to the Lobos Pack?” Beverly Mossgreen spoke up.
John’s head swiveled toward her and he stared for a couple of seconds. It wasn’t an official correction, but it was enough unwanted attention from the alpha to make her uncomfortable.
“Yes. Lobos. But I have a plan.” John noticed that both his betas, who happened to be cousins of his, stood opposite each other, off to the sides, leaning against the walls with muscled arms crossed in front of chests. The pose looked casual, leisurely, but would be read by the pack as absolute support for whatever the alpha had to say. “A peaceful transition.”
“What is it?” A female elder sounded anxious and he couldn’t blame her.
A move like the one he was proposing would be hard on any of them, but especially so on those who were older. His face softened for a second as he regarded her. “Don’t worry, Evelyn. Everything will turn out fine.”
He looked over the pack. “In the old days, we would have had to kill the alpha and any loyalists who resisted a takeover. But that was the old days. We’ve made a lot of changes. James owns the auto parts store. Raleigh is a real estate broker. My own mate bakes fucking cookies!”
“I do not bake fucking cookies!” Marva spoke up. “I run a bakery.”
The laughter that rippled through the room helped to ease some of the tension.
“Right.” John smiled her way. “Right,” he repeated. “I bet people in Alpine like cookies just as much as people in Kerrville.”
“I don’t just bake cookies,” she grumbled.
He gave her a look that said, ‘First, I’m teasing you. Second, right now I’m speaking as the alpha. Not as your mate. Take it up with me later. In bed.’
She got the message and ducked her chin slightly in deference. He continued.
“Point is I think it’s time for the old ways to move aside for better ideas. We’re going to try for a bloodless coup.” He glanced at his betas. “Rake, James, and I are going to head on out there and have a talk with the Lobos alpha and his top people. We’ll offer a ‘buy in’ for a piece of their territory around Alpine. I don’t know much about their finances, but I’m guessing that these days it’s hard for even shifters to turn down cash.
“That’s the first part of our offer. Folding money appeals to the two-legged half of our nature. The second part is a little trickier because cash is useless in wolf form. That’s why we need a deal sealed with blood.” He cleared his throat. “The Lobos alpha has a daughter. Mating age. We’re going to arrange an alliance.”
The alpha paused and looked over the gathering, faces almost as familiar as his own in the mirror. He spotted his son in his usual spot, in a far back corner with his friends. The gathering followed John’s line of sight and turned to look at Fleet at the back of the room.
Fleet had been softly chuckling at a joke, only half listening to his dad, when he realized that everyone in the pack had turned to look at him. His world turned serious in a heartbeat and he stood taller, pale gray eyes identical to his father’s, going straight to lock the alpha’s gaze.
“Our son, Fleet.” John nodded toward Marva even though everyone there knew full well that she was Fleet’s mother. “And Lobos’ daughter.”
A range of emotion flashed across Fleet’s features. Confusion. Shock. Anger. And again, confusion, finally resolving in disbelief. He couldn’t possibly have heard right. Could he?
If he was human, he’d tell his father to fuck off. But Fleet Ryder wasn’t human. He was a wolf shifter with two choices; obey the alpha or leave the pack. Since the latter wasn’t really a choice, that left once course of action. He couldn’t disobey. He couldn’t challenge openly. He couldn’t object in any overt way.
So he did the next best thing. He threw his father a hateful look, turned and left. Four young shifter males filed out behind him, partly because they were compelled on a subliminal level. Fleet was oozing alpha traits and the next generation were already paying homage to that.
About the Authors:
Victoria Danann and Teresa Gabelman are both award winning New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon #1 bestselling authors.