I never thought I’d have a girl like Sheridan. A pack princess--beautiful, smart, one of the elite. She picked me. She gave me her heart, her innocence.
Hurting her was my biggest regret. But then she betrayed us all.
Now she’s back--sent to spy on our pack.
She wants revenge.
But my wolf...he just wants her.
He crushed my heart and broke my trust. I ruined his life.
Now we have to work together, and it’s killing me.
I want to hate him. But more than that...I want his mark.
The thunk of bone hitting flesh knots my stomach. I grab my little sister Ruby’s hand and tug her back, out of the way. An inhuman snarl comes from the slender, malnourished teen attacking Garrett Green, a kid twice his size. You’d have to be insane to take on our alpha’s kid.
But Trey probably has a death wish.
His drunk of a dad got hauled in by the police today. For murder. Of a human.
And the reason all the kids are gathered on this field behind the clubhouse is because our alpha called a pack meeting. Word is, they’re discussing whether to let Trey and his mom stay. The pack doesn’t appreciate trouble with humans, especially cops, so any wolf who puts at risk is subject to banishment.
So yeah, Trey’s probably got a world of anger and fear pounding through him now. Taking the beating from Garrett might be a welcome distraction.
To Garrett’s credit, he’s hardly bloodied Trey yet. He maintains the upper hand but lets the fight go on, lets Trey blow of steam this way, punching and kicking, throwing himself into it again and again. Trey picked the fight as soon as the meeting started and we kids clustered up to watch.
And they aren’t friends. No one’s befriended Trey since his family moved here last year. He’s stony quiet most of the time, barely talks in class, although he seems to be smart. This is the most interaction I’ve seen from him all year.
It’s not as ugly as it sounds. There’s a beauty to the fight--both boys moving with light-footed grace, like trained boxers instead of freshmen. If my older brother were out here, he’d break it up, but he just turned eighteen, so he’s allowed into meetings now.
Trey throws his weight and tackles Garrett. They tumble to the dirt. Garrett pins him, but Trey slips out and punches him in the temple, eliciting a surprised grunt.
Garrett’s four-year-old sister, Sedona, runs forward, crying for him, and I dash in to get her out of the fray. At the same time, Garrett tosses Trey backward and he knocks me and Sedona to the ground.
A collective growl snarls through Garrett and the group of kids watching. I fully expect Garrett to finish Trey now, his alpha instinct to protect the females overriding whatever restraint he was showing.
My friend Pam picks up and soothes Sedona.
“Sheridan.” Trey ignores Garrett, instantly transforming from out-of-control fury, to… gentleman. The wolf in his eyes fades from silver to pale blue.
I didn’t know he even knew my name, although why wouldn’t he? I certainly know his.
He lifts me to my feet at the same time he scrambles up. His knuckles are bruised and bloodied but he holds me gently, concern etched in the line between his eyes. “I’m sorry--are you hurt?” His tooth has gone through his lip and blood spills down his chin, but he seems unaffected by his own pain.
Our gazes tangle and something cinches up in my low belly--some intense new awareness that I’m female, and he’s male.
I can’t look away. He doesn’t release me, even with Garrett breathing down his neck, just behind him.
“I’m okay.” I finally make my numb lips move. My heart pounds in my ears as I absorb everything I’d missed about this scrappy kid from the lowest pack family. The deepness of his voice. The intensity of his pale blue eyes. The muscle definition on his slender frame. The scents on him--blood, earth and pine.
“Hey.” The cluster of kids jumps apart at the command of our alpha’s deep voice. “What’s going on down here?” He sniffs the air, no doubt picking up the scent of blood. The back door to the clubhouse is open and parents are coming out to round up their kids. Sedona runs to Mr. Green and he tousels her hair without taking his narrowed gaze off his son. “Were you fighting?”
A muscle in Garrett’s jaw ticks as his gaze flicks to Trey, who dropped his hands from me like he received an electrical shock. “Nah.” He affects a lazy tone that in no way matches the intensity of the tussle he had. “We were just letting off some steam, right, Trey?” He puts a fist out and Trey bumps it, like they’re best buds. Like Trey somehow earned his respect by taking him on.
I release a breath I didn’t know I was holding.
Emmett Green turns his commanding gaze on Trey. “You’re going to have to man up and take care of your mother, now, son.”
Trey keeps his eyes dropped submissively to show respect. “Yes, sir. Are we kicked out?”
“No,” Mr. Green says. “You’ll be permitted stay, so long as you keep out of trouble and sever all contacts with your dad.”
Trey swallows. “No hardship there,” he mutters. Then adds, “Thank you, sir.”
The alpha walks off and the kids all stay, eyeing Trey with curiosity. I want to punch them all in the face now, even though I am just as much a party to this scene as anyone else. It’s Garrett who shifts things up.
“Come on.” He smacks Trey’s shoulder like they’re old friends. “Let’s go hang out.”
And just like that, Trey gets folded in as one of Garrett’s little pack, the bad boy alphas of Wolf Ridge High.
Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.
The quote from my ‘daily wisdom quote’ calendar rolls through my head as I stride across the pitted parking lot. My heels crunch on broken glass and I grit my teeth. I’m here under duress. If I lose my favorite pair of Jimmy Choos on this fool’s errand, I am going to be really pissed.
You can do it, sweetheart. The pep talk from my father’s The pack’s counting on you. I hear the unspoken addition: I’m counting on you. If there’s anything thirty years of life have taught me, I’ll do anything to make my dad proud. Including walking back into a scene from my high school days.
Apparently I didn’t learn anything from the past, because here I am, repeating it. Come to think of it, my dad gave me that damn ‘daily wisdom quote’ calendar.
A rundown warehouse looms across the gravel lot, rising from the cracked concrete. A line of motorcycles lean in front of a broken chain link fence. A few beat up pickup trucks break up the endless row of leather and chrome. I pass one mud-spattered Chevy, a rusty replacement door breaking up the battered blue. A faded bumper sticker features a howling wolf. Another: a dog with its leg cocked, a telltale arc of liquid splashing on a Ford symbol.
As I approach, the door slams open and a shifter staggers out, his matted mane of hair and sweat stained shirt reeking of beer, piss and pot. At 6 p.m. on a Thursday.
“Excuse me.” I’d touch his arm to get his attention, but I don’t know where he’s been. “Is this the Shifter Fight Club?”
The shifter dude gapes at me, and I stiffen. I’m dressed in an Anne Klein suit and skirt. The olive tone makes my blond hair pop and my green eyes look amazing. Paired with the sheerest of sheer stockings and my lucky Jimmy Choos--I’m business up front, yowza in the back. And sexy as fuck underneath.
Not that this trifling shifter wolf will ever know it. His gaze roams from my shiny shoes to my elegant skirt to my rather generous hips, detouring around the tailored cut at my waist and stalling right at my girls.
“Hey,” I snap. “My eyes are up here.”
The shifter looks higher. “Is it a full moon?” he leers. “‘Cause I got the urge to mate right now.”
A bad pick up line. Awesome.
“No,” I bark, no longer willing to waste politeness on this moron. “I’m looking for--”
Behind the shifter, the door swings open, and rock music blasts into the sunny day. A drunken howl fills the air. “Drink, drink, drink, drink!”
Just like that, I’m back in high school.
A keg in the woods, bare chested shifter boys doing handstands. My heart flutters as I walk up to one. The beautiful troubled one with the ice blue eyes. He turns as I approach, a smile lighting his rugged face. It takes my breath away...
“Lady? Lady…” beer soaked breath on my face makes me step back. “I wouldn’t go in there if I was you,” the wolf informs me solemnly. Great advice. Too bad I can’t take it.
“This is the Fight Club?” I ask, and when he nods, I hit the door with my palm, sucking in a breath and holding it as I enter the murky underworld.
It takes a second for my eyes to adjust to the gloom. Dust motes hang suspended in the smoky air. To the right, a shifter stands behind a makeshift bar, slinging drinks to his rowdy patrons. A group of leather-clad jackals slam shots. A few sway. One stands on a metal stool, singing a drinking song that sounds vaguely Irish. I can’t tell because he’s slurring and cussing every other word.
The place is cavernous, with a concrete floor and light sifting in from windows near the ceilings. Whoever converted this warehouse didn’t do a bad job. The bar and the backsplash is made of recycled wood. There are a few tall tables, metal topped with more polished wood. Not bad looking, actually. Give this place a good clean--maybe a powerwash--and it would look trendy, a hipster brunch spot. Of course, you’d have to change the bathroom signs. Right now they read: Bitches and Studs.
I roll my eyes and step aside as a prowl of jaguars brush by, heading to the bar. They have their dark hair slicked back and collars up like wannabe 50’s greasers. A few look back at me with casual interest and I fight not to roll my eyes again.
I do not fit in here. For one thing, I’m the only one in a suit. For another, I’m a she-wolf. There aren’t many females in this place. A few bitches maybe. Well, I can be a bitch, too. I set my teeth into half smile, half snarl, and stride into the shadows. More shifters stand in clusters, muttering together. One points to a notebook, and his companion pulls out a wallet. Out of the corner of my eye, bills change hands. I nearly stop and stare at this blatant proof of gambling.
A large cage around an elevated stage. Inside, a scrawny shifter with a shock of orange hair pushes a mop around lazily. My nose pricks with a sharp smell. Blood.
The closer I get to the fighting ring, the strong the scents hit me. Blood, sweat, piss in a dizzying miasma. If testosterone had a smell, this would be it. I wrinkle my nose and pick my way around the piles of trash, and walk smack into a solid wall of muscle.
“Oh excuse me--”
“Watch it, princess,” a rumble like an avalanche comes from a hulking beast of a man. I look up and freeze, mouth falling open. Feral eyes peer from a fight-ravaged face. Arms, neck, cheeks--whatever part of him that isn’t tattooed is covered in scars. One beefy hand hovers at my elbow, as if he’s ready to grab and steady me--or throw me out. “This is no place for a lady.”
“I--uh-I--” This is ridiculous. I’m Sheridan Green of the Wolf Ridge Greens, leaders of the Phoenix pack. Both my uncle and cousin are pack Alphas. I’ve navigated werewolf politics since before I could walk.
I stare up into the scarred face and try to remember my mission and manners. “I beg your pardon.”
“You looking for somebody?” he growls.
I straighten my suit jacket, searching for composure. “I...yes. Is Garrett Green here?”
The big guy cocks an eyebrow. “The alpha don’t come here.”
I lick my lips, trying to think of who to ask for. “I was told this was a pack operation.”
“You were told wrong,” the big guy tells me. He’s a shifter, but I can’t scent what type of animal, though I feel it, big and brooding under his intimidating skin. Definitely an apex predator. “This here’s independent from the pack.”
My brain scrambles. If Garrett’s pack isn’t running this operation, who is? “I thought this place was under the Tucson pack’s protection.”
The big guy shrugs. “We’re fighters. We protect our own.”
“That’s,” I shake my head, not wanting to say ‘crazy.’ “I’m from the Phoenix pack. I was sent here to find out what’s going on--”
“Hey, Grizz. Who’s your friend?”
I turn towards the silky voice, and get my second shock of the night. Grizz--the big guy at my back, steps between me and the speaker, but not before I get a whiff of cologne. The seductive scent covers an uglier smell--a stone cold scent like a tomb, with an undertone of old blood.
My lips curl back and I snarl, “Vampire.”
The leech is tall, too tall, with a fine-boned face so beautiful it’s inhuman. His beauty is predatory, lethal, like a poisonous flower. Men and women will find themselves attracted to him, but before they know why, they’ll be dead.
He smiles, showing a pair pointy teeth. My hackles go up and my wolf surges to the fore.
“Back off, Julian,” the big shifter barks, his brawny shoulder inserted between me and the vamp. “She’s a guest.”
“My dear Grizzly,” the vampire spreads his elegant hands. He’s wearing a thousand dollar suit and snakeskin cowboy boots. “Aren’t we all?”
“Come on.” Grizz herds me towards the back, away from the smiling vampire. “Office’s this way. The boss will want to speak with you.”
I let the scarred shifter--grizzly bear, of course--guide me around the fight cage toward the corner of the warehouse, where a dark, room-sized cube hugs the walls. Behind us, Julian watches, his teeth shining in the gloom. I suppress a shudder.
“So the rumors are true,” I mutter. “This place has gone to the leeches.”
Grizz gives me a sharp look and pushes me gently towards the office door. “Someone to see you, boss,” he calls and raps the side of the cube.
The door opens and I get my third shock. Spiked hair, lip ring, dark tattoos running up and down muscular arms. And those ice blue eyes piercing me through. I sway as if stabbed, and he automatically puts his hands out to steady me.
“Sheridan.” It’s just like the first time he spoke my name. Trey stares as if he’s not sure I’m really here. I’m tall, but he towers over me. And I’m lost, drowning in the past, the heat and memory in his pale blue gaze.
Sheridan Green glares up at me, looking like she stepped out of my dreams--wet dreams--and into my life. My wolf presses against my skin, clawing to touch her. I don’t know whether to yell at her, slam the door in her face, or pull her into the office, and reacquaint myself with every inch of her body.
My dick is not so ambivalent. It’d be easy, so easy, too easy, to yank her to me, hike up her skirt, and have her against the wall.
Then she opens her mouth. “Get your hands off me,” she spits, her green eyes sparking.
“Fuck,” I rasp, and let go of her as if burned. “What’s going on?” I ask Grizz without taking my eyes from Sheridan’s angry face.
The grizzly shrugs. “She came in looking to talk to Garrett. I figured you’d want to know.”
“Garrett?” I cross my arms over my chest, mirroring Sheridan’s stance. She’s got her hackles up. As if she has a right to be mad at me after what she did. “Your cousin isn’t here.”
“I learned that,” she snaps. “Right before I ran into a freaking vampire.”
A growl rises at my chest. Not at her. I’m not happy about the leeches.
“Come in.” I step back, holding the office door open. She marches in and turns in a circle, hands on her hips. For a moment I see the office through her eyes. The messy stacks of paper, the dim light broken by the glow of an ancient desktop computer. The cans of beer overflowing from the trash can. Not exactly a professional work environment.
Whatever. It’s my business and I get shit done when I want, how I want. I’m done trying to please her. Those days are over. She killed any tie we ever had to each other.
A little voice in the back of my head whispers, You had it coming. I have to admit, I snuffed out the feelings we had for each other as efficiently as I could. Our relationship was on life support by the time I was through with it. But Sheridan was the one who plunged a knife into my heart, and twisted it until there’s was nothing left. No love, no feelings. I’ve been an empty shell ever since.
“Vampire, Robson, really? What the heck is going on?”
Heck. She still doesn’t swear. Still the perfect pack princess, working so hard to please everyone. Her family, her pack, her alpha--everybody but me. She doesn’t have a problem treating me like dirt.
Right now she’s looking down her nose like I’m dogshit on her designer shoe. Her fancypants high heels that makes her legs under her skirt look long and sexy as fuck.
My eyebrows snap together and I glare right back. Who the fuck wears high heels to an underground fight club?
“What are you doing here, Sheridan?”
A perfectly polished fingernail stabs me in the chest. “You answer me first, wolf. Why is there a leech out there? This is pack territory. Why haven’t you thrown him out and staked him as an example?”
“I can’t. He belongs to Lucius. We have a deal.”
Sheridan sucks in a breath. “You’re dealing with vampires?”
“Fuck.” I turn away, scrubbing my hand through my hair. I hate leeches more than anyone. They’ve turned my dream into a nightmare. “It’s complicated.”
I whirl back on her with a snarl. “I’m not your wolf.” I was once. But never again. That’s why this is so hard. “I don’t answer to you.”
She straightens, her chin going up in the stubborn stance I know so well. “I’m here on behalf of the Phoenix pack.”
“Garrett’s dad? You should talk to Garrett.”
“I thought he’d be here.”
“This isn’t pack territory. Not anymore.” I swallow to stop my wolf growling in my chest. He hates the leeches as much as I do. “We made a deal with the new kingpin.”
“I can’t believe this. The wolves I know would never ever deal with vampires--”
“The Sheridan I knew would never choose her own glory over her friends. Oh wait, she did.”
She pales. “That was years ago,” she whispers. “I thought you’d be over it.”
Never. I’ll never be over you. If I talk, I’ll beg like a dog. For her to come back, forgive me, anything. Instead of answering, I raise a mocking eyebrow. Cruel, but she deserves it.
She looks away, color returning to her cheeks with a flush. A tendril of hair curls around the perfect shell of her ear. I tighten my hand into a fist to keep from touching it.
After a minute, Sheridan turns back, her face a cool mask. “I’m here representing the Phoenix pack. We’ve heard the Fight Club was attracting trouble. Alpha Green sent me to figure out what’s going on.”
“Spy on us, you mean.” I cock my head and bare my teeth in a nasty semblance of a grin. “Just like old times.”
She flinches at that. Point to me. “I’d like a sit down with Garrett, to talk about this new vampire presence and what it means.”
“Then call him. I’m sure your cousin will be happy to hear from you. Or are you not on speaking terms with him?”
She presses her lips together and gives a small shake of her head.
“Imagine that. It’s almost like no one trusts you anymore, since you betrayed us.”
“Are you ever going to let that go?”
“Nope.” I grin to hide the flash of pain. She’s so beautiful. So perfect. So out of reach. An ant has a better chance of dating the sun.
Her father was right. I never should’ve put my dirty paws on her.
“Look.” Her voice softens. “I”m not the bad guy here. This Fight Club,” she flicks her fingers at the door, “You’re attracting attention. Cops, FBI, CIA--”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” I raise a hand to stop her, mentally cursing Agent Dune and his damn midlife crisis. “That business with the CIA wasn’t us.”
She shakes her head. “You were involved. And now the heat’s on and you’re taunting the humans under their noses. Gambling. Illegal fights. Drugs.”
“Hey”--I spread my hands--“I have nothing to do with drugs.”
She leans forward and sniffs my clothes pointedly. “Last time I checked, recreational pot wasn’t legal.”
I roll my eyes. “Maybe I have a prescription.”
“I don’t care about the pot. I care about the harder stuff. Sucre sang.” She rattles something French sounding. “Sugar blood. It’s a new drug on the streets, and it’s deadly.” She pauses, her eyes faraway for a moment. “That’s why the vampires are here,” she says to herself, as if she’s just figured it out.
I stay quiet and let her, drinking in the sight of her in a sleek suit. She looks good. More makeup than she used to wear, and her hair is pulled back tight, but the stuffy suit she’s wearing doesn’t hide her perfect curves.
Sheridan. Fuck. She’s catnip to my wolf. Not catnip--wolfbane. Sweetness and poison in one perfectly made up package.
As if to prove it, she faces me. "This little turf war with the leeches makes it clear to Alpha Green that you guys can't stand alone. You need our protection. Maybe even become part of the Phoenix pack again."
"What the fuck?” I can’t keep my voice down. “We've been on our own for years, every since you--"
"You only exist because we allow it,” she says, cool as a judge pronouncing an execution sentence. “Shut the Fight Club down, Trey. Or I will."
USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE is a naughty wordsmith who writes kinky BDSM novels. Named Eroticon USA's Next Top Erotic Author in 2013, she has also won The Romance Reviews Best Historical Romance, and Spanking Romance Reviews' Best Sci-fi, Paranormal, Historical, Erotic, Ageplay and favorite couple and author. She's hit #1 on Amazon in multiple categories in the U.S. and U.K., is often found on the list of Amazon's Top Author list. She also pens BDSM stories under the name Darling Adams.
Lee Savino has grandiose goals but most days can’t find her wallet or her keys so she just stays at home and writes. While she was studying creative writing at Hollins University, her first manuscript won the Hollins Fiction Prize.
She lives in Richmond, Va with her awesome family> You can find her on Facebook in the Goddess Group (which you totally should join).