Annie Nicholas - Bootcamp of Misfits Wolves (Vanguard Elite Book 1), страница 1
Bootcamp of Misfit Wolves
Vanguard Elite book one
Note to Readers:
Every time I return to the Vanguard world, it’s like taking a trip down memory lane. I’ve never been the type of person who fits in with the popular crowd. I marched to the beat of my own drum, even now as an author. So why wouldn’t I love writing about the outcasts of the wolf shifter packs. Sometimes a woman just wants to root for the underdogs.
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Table of Contents
About the Author
Other Books by Annie!
Humans died in their military boot camps. How many of her kind would perish in a wolf shifter camp run by a vampire? Clare curled her legs under her butt and settled deeper into the couch with a magazine, blocking out the background chatter from the others in the room. The bloodsucker housed all of them in an old, abandoned manor on the edge of nowhere, deep in the Adirondack Mountains.
He probably chose this place because no one would hear them scream.
The vampire strode through the crowded room and kicked a battered metal trunk.
Everyone went silent.
The lid popped open. A male shifter sat up with his iPad. “It’s ten twenty-one PM, sir.”
“Say it right, wolf.” His harsh accent hurt her ears.
The shifter counted on his fingers. “Twenty-one twenty-one, sir.”
“Wrong again.” He closed the lid on the wolf’s head. “See you in another hour.” He exited out of the front door.
The chatter slowly built again.
Clare stared at the trunk. Poor guy had been in there for three hours. Maybe he was giving the wrong military time on purpose so he could play on his tablet before the battery ran out. Without any way to charge the thing, it would eventually die. She smirked. Kind of smart, actually.
Headlights approaching the manor caught her attention. Another recruit arriving. She’d made it her priority to greet each one and remember their names. A good leader knew her wolves. So far, she had greeted thirty-nine shifters in the last three days. Seven shifters had already been here when she arrived, including Penny.
Pallas, the vampire, stepped out of the shadows and crossed in front of the moving vehicle.
Her stomach cramped. Even from this distance she could sense power ebbing from him like a web. It clung to her even through the walls. Would he turn this candidate away? She’d seen him do it. There wasn’t any rhyme or reason to his decision making.
She turned her back on the scene outside and watched her roommate. Head held low, eyes downcast, Penny jumped whenever someone entered the room. Without a hunter to watch her back, the female wouldn’t survive the next few weeks. Who would send such a weak wolf to a place like this? Omega wolves tended to pack needs. They didn’t fight. A wolf needed a killer instinct to protect the pack. Penny hadn’t shown a speck of killer anything since meeting Clare.
They were a mixed-gendered group. The third floor housed the males and the second floor the females. Each floor had eight bedrooms—double occupancy rooms for the girls and quadruple for the boys. Males weren’t allowed in the female area and vise-versa.
The manor was full of shifters from different packs. If this newcomer stayed, that would make forty-eight in total. They came from all over the country to see what this vampire had to offer. Packs didn’t trust each other and wouldn’t allow their best fighters to leave their territories so they sent their misfits, omegas, geeks, and nerds. Basically anyone they could spare. Mixing packs always caused chaos until a new hierarchy was established. Clare had broken up three unnecessary challenges and she’d only arrived three days ago. One of them was over a power pack for a handheld game console. She glanced at the Nintendo DS pinned to the wall by the vampire’s dagger. They were lucky he had stabbed their toy and not their hands.
No electricity was sending some of these non-hunter wolves over the edge. The lack of video games and internet alone would break most of them. She had pulled one male off the other over the last bowl of Fruit Loops. The vampire ran extensions from the power box in the basement to keep the fridge and freezer running. Without a stove, they needed fire and Pallas refused to give them matches or lighters. Wolves needed meat and one could only eat so many sandwiches. The lack of a hot food might be the catalyst that would send Clare home with her tail between her legs. Wouldn’t her return make her alpha father happy? He’d been against her attending from day one. Barefoot and pregnant had been her only future until this godsend of a training nightmare allowed her to escape. She forced his hand in sending her. Being the smallest shifter made her the most expendable and the least needed in protecting pack lands.
The vampire didn’t charge much to train fighters, however according to the contract signed by the alphas, he kept the top five trainees. She doubted most of the alphas read this clause. So be it. She’d be the best dang fighter of the group by the end, all five foot zero of her, if it meant freedom from her pack.
A thin male knelt next to Penny.
Clare eyed him as she pretended to read. She’d seen him around the manor but they hadn’t spoken since he kept to himself, until now. He held some sticks in his hands as he whispered to Penny. She nodded and followed him out of the room.
Clare set her outdated-by-five-years magazine aside. What were they up to? She wouldn’t let anyone take advantage of Penny. To her father’s dismay, out of six children, only his daughter had inherited his alpha traits. That included the inherent need to protect omegas. Being the smallest shifter in her pack didn’t matter to her instincts.
She shadowed the couple. Inside the kitchen, they knelt in front of the hearth. Silently she stalked closer. “What are you doing?”
The omega jumped and dropped her sticks. “Trying to make fire.” She sagged in relief when she recognized Clare. “You scared me.”
The thin male glanced over his shoulder. “Penny has a lot of camping experience. She was showing me how to do it without a lighter.”
“I-it’s been a long time though. My pack lost most of our territory to rivals so I haven’t been out on long hunts in years.” She offered the sticks to Clare. “Would you like to take over?”
Clare shook her head. “I’ve always had a lighter. I’d just get blisters if I tried it your way.” She wiggled her fingers. “You need anything else?” The male didn’t smell of lust. He hadn’t been one of the hotheads causing issues either. “I’m Clare.” She held out her hand.
“Jake.” He gave her a firm handshake. Stronger than he looked.
She felt okay leaving Penny in his care. “Good luck.” She exited the kitchen and returned to her spot on the couch. In this central location, she could feel the pulse of interactions within the manor.
Part of her wished she could be what her father wanted—a female like Penny, who did as she was told instead of telling others what to do. She knew more about hunting and fishing than fashion and make-up. She could fantasize all she wanted but her pack would never a
Duct tape bit into Ian’s wrists. Arms pinned behind him, he yanked until his shoulders burned but the confines of the car trunk didn’t give him much room to move. The vehicle slowed and he rocked as they made a sharp right onto a rough terrain.
He’d been home alone when his alpha had jumped him. Surprised, it had taken a matter of seconds for him to be overpowered and his limbs bound together. No one would know what happened. He dropped his head back and glared at the trunk’s lid. Nobody would care either. Roy, his alpha, could say Ian had left the pack. No one would question him since technically he wasn’t lying. Ian was turned a year ago. Not enough time to build any real friendships, at least, for him it wasn’t.
Ever since he joined the pack, he and Roy had butted heads but he never would have thought his alpha the type to stoop to murder. Ian couldn’t think of any other reason for being hog-tied and dragged on this day long journey into the country. No water, no food.
The car slowed to a stop. Door opened and shut, followed by muffled male voices growing louder.
Heart pounding, Ian rolled onto his back and drew his knees to his chest in the cramped space. Sweat trickled along his brow and stung his eyes. He blinked them clear. Roy wanted him dead but Ian would go down fighting and do his best to drag the alpha with him to the grave.
The trunk popped open.
Ian kicked his legs straight up, connecting with Roy’s chin. The momentum rolled Ian forward. He ended up in a sitting position inside the open trunk. Leaning forward, he tumbled out of the car head first. He spotted his alpha sprawled onto his back and smirked.
Roy rubbed his chin. “Nice shot.” The ass was always full of false praise. “See, he’ll make a fine Vanguard. He’s a fast little shit. He just needs discipline.”
A huge pair of combat boots came into Ian’s line of sight. His gaze traveled up the black fatigues as the figure crouched next to his head. Bald with pointed ears, eyes black as pitch and skin so pale Ian doubted the guy had ever seen the sun. “What the fuck are you?” Ian tried to sit and meet the creature’s stare, but only managed to flop onto his side. Even the creature’s smell was off. Not quite human, but close. Almost as if he’d been dunked in bleach until his human scent had faded to a shadow.
The stranger smiled. Fangs the size of a tiger’s glistened in the moonlight. He’d been told they existed but hadn’t believed the stories.
Ian shuffled his shoulders and hips until his back hit the low bumper of the car. Pulse pounding in his ears, he couldn’t hear what the vampire said. Had he ever seen anything so evil?
The vampire snapped his fingers in front of Ian’s face to get his attention. “Looks like a scared pup.” He spoke with a strange accent that Ian couldn’t place. Something with a harsh edge and a European flare. German with a strong dose of creep?
“Ian’s a pain in my ass, but when I heard the Vanguards were recruiting for this experiment I knew he’d be perfect.” Roy loomed over them, arms folded, and nodding as if proud.
Ian bared his teeth and fought to regain his feet. “Experiment?” Roy’s act didn’t fool him. The alpha didn’t listen to any of his suggestions or give him any responsibilities within the pack. All Ian heard was keep your wolf under wraps. Fuck that. The wolf made him strong and fast. Why would he want to control it? “You’re giving me to this—this thing?” He struggled with the thick layer of duct tape holding confining him, but only managed to strip the hairs off his wrists.
Roy sighed and shook his head. “If you’d focus that fury, you could have broken free by now.” With his foot, he pinned Ian’s shoulder against the car, reached around him, and tore the tape from his limbs.
Ian gritted his teeth. His skin was raw where the tape had been. He twisted around and swung his legs, tripping his alpha so he landed inside the trunk. “Fucking traitor. We’re pack. Isn’t that the line you give me every chance you get?”
An evil chuckle chilled Ian’s temper to subzero. “You can leave him.” The vampire turned his back on them and strolled toward the huge building. Until this point, Ian hadn’t noticed his surroundings.
An ancient stone manor loomed over them. Old wooden shutters lined each window, some hanging angled on one hinge. Dim light shone through the windows and a thick forest butted against the neglected lawn. Ian spun a slow circle. No street lights. The only sounds were the frogs singing in the tall grass. Stars blanketed the sky for as far as his shifter eyes could see. Where was New York City? He hadn’t seen such darkness or heard so much silence in his life.
“I hate you,” he whispered to Roy.
“I know,” his alpha replied. “Maybe one day you won’t.”
“What will you tell the pack?”
“Who do you think suggested I bring you here?” Roy’s words cut Ian deeper than claws. Without another word, his ex-alpha hopped out of the trunk and climbed into the driver’s seat, leaving Ian at the mercy of a vampire who smelled older than dirt.
“I like troublemakers.” The bloodsucker spoke next to Ian’s ear. He hadn’t heard the thing return. “Especially for breakfast.”
Cold claws of fear dug deep into Ian’s spine. “Is that why I’m here? I’m food?”
That dark laugh coated the night. “Have you heard any stories about the Vanguards?”
The wheels in his head turned at light speed. Vanguards? He had been turned into wolf shifter a year ago. They filled his head with werewolf crap and history the months prior to being infected. He ran through his memory and everything the NYC pack had crammed into his lessons. Accords…they mentioned something about a small pack fighting back a larger one. “The Vanguards.” His alpha had mentioned that word not moments ago. “The Chicago pack sent someone spewing propaganda three weeks ago. Something about old laws and how we lost our way and other shit.”
The vampire snorted. “Nicely put.” He strolled toward the manor, gesturing for Ian to follow. “Things are changing, young wolf. You and the others attending this experiment will be the first generation in a new age for shifters.” He slapped Ian on the shoulder, almost dislocating it. “I am Pallas, your task master for the next nine weeks.” He ran sharp nails along Ian’s ear.
Ian shrugged from the caress and faced Pallas. “Nobody is my master.”
The bloodsucker gave him a secretive smile like a parent agreeing with an errant child. “Your alpha neglected to tell me your name, troublemaker.”
With a throat gone dry, Ian swallowed his retort. He already got his ass kicked today. His ego couldn’t bear a second round so soon. “Ian. What does this place have to do with the Vanguards?” A shifter prison run by vampires? He hadn’t broken any laws. Pissed off his alpha and some elders…yes. If the alpha didn’t want anyone driving his new sports car then he shouldn’t leave the keys lying around the pack house.
Pallas rested his arm on Ian’s shoulders, guiding him to the decrepit building’s wraparound porch. “This glorious place is my training camp, where I will teach you the meaning of life and death. We will spend this time together reaching—” he grasped air with his sharp nailed fist, “—your potential.” He opened the front door and shoved Ian over the threshold.
Multiple flashlights seemed like the only source of lighting and they left heavy shadows in every corner. A thick carpet softened Ian’s steps and covered the hard wood floor, hiding most of the wear. Stairs led from the foyer to the second—he leaned to the side—and third floor… “I guess there weren’t any dungeons on the market when you bought this place,” he whispered under his breath.
“Kitchen and dining hall.” Pallas pointed to the back of the house. “Food is provided but you and the others have to cook for yourselves.” He chuckled, but Ian didn’t see what was so funny. “Bedrooms for males are on the third floor. One will be assigned to you. If you don’t get along with your roommate, I don’t want to hear about it. Someone will explain the challenge rules eventually. No f
Ian sensed the blood drain from his face. “Yeah.” Almost too obvious with his fangs poking out of his mouth while he talked. Women found vampires sexy? He didn’t see why. His gaze wandered around the empty foyer. The place smelled like a pack house. Shifter scents everywhere.
Pallas led him through the next room that appeared to be a parlor that had been turned into a gym and then a salon-turned-aarmory. “I don’t ask for much. Follow orders, don’t leave the premises without permission, and be punctual.” He spun around.
Ian stomped on the brakes before slamming into the vampire. He came kissing close. Fuck his alpha for leaving him here in this house of crazy. Orders? Permission? Punctual wasn’t going to happen.
“Keep the place tidy and your stink to a minimum. Clear?”
“As water.” Mixed with Kool-Aid and vodka. “What happens if I break a rule?”
Pallas grabbed him by the throat before Ian could blink and his feet no longer touched the floor.
Ian couldn’t breathe. He grew lightheaded and his vision swam. Not here for more than ten minutes and the vampire was already going to kill him.
“I will be displeased. Do you want me to be unhappy?”
He assumed the question was rhetorical since Pallas was choking the air out of him and he couldn’t talk.
The vampire set him on his feet. “Understand?”
Ian rubbed his throat. “You’ll teach me to submit like a good little wolf.”
Pallas snorted. “No. Once I’m done with you, you’ll be an elite warrior like this world hasn’t ever seen.” He frowned. “If you survive the training.”
Pallas guided the new shifter toward the manor and Clare ducked behind the curtain before the vampire spotted her spying through the window. She pushed her way through the crowded pack room and exited onto the side porch where she and others had stacked firewood all evening. The nights were growing colder in the Adirondacks and they all hoped for a fire soon. She grabbed an armload, returning to Jake and Penny in the kitchen.