Bred by the Alpha, страница 1часть #3 серии Breeding Season
EVERNIGHT PUBLISHING ®
Copyright© 2018 Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino
Cover Artist: Jay Aheer
Editor: Karyn White
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.
BRED BY THE ALPHA
Breeding Season, 3
Sam Crescent and Stacey Espino
Copyright © 2018
“Her stomach looks so cute,” said Jake. He was swooning over his pregnant mate, and Liam was fucking sick of hearing about it.
“Keep that shit to yourself,” he said.
Jake glared at him. “You’re even bitchier than usual. What’s going on with you?”
Liam had just turned fifty. He was the alpha of his pack and was still without a woman to call his own. He could hardly sleep nights knowing he still didn’t have an heir to take over his place in the pack once he was too old to reign.
“Cabin fever,” he said.
“We’re almost finished construction. Don’t worry, we’ll be out of your hair within the week.”
“Just hurry it up.”
He stood and stretched out his muscles. Since three of his packmates had found their mates within the last year, he wanted all the happy couples out of the main cabin. They owned thousands of acres of untouched forest, with a small settlement for their pack. Lately, he’d been sleeping in his fur in their old wolf den rather than his comfortable king-sized bed. Listening to Jake, Eli, and Ben fucking in the next rooms had put him in a perpetual black mood.
Why were the gods forsaking him? He’d been searching for his mate for decades, but all he’d found were one-night stands. Liam began to trek away from the camp. His spirits were down, and tonight he’d drown his misery in cheap whisky.
“Come on,” he called to his dog, Alphie. The German shepherd ran up beside him, tagging along. He’d always loved dogs, and the fact had made him a pariah of sorts. Shifters believed dogs were lesser beings and couldn’t understand why he’d want one as a pet. He blamed his human side. Regardless, everyone knew to keep their paws off Alphie, even in their wolf form, or they’d deal with him.
The forest was quiet at this time of evening, just the remnants of the sunset between the leaves above. He loved this land, but the loneliness was driving him insane. He wanted what many of his friends had, a mate, love, happiness, and regular sex. As a shifter, his sexual drive was off the charts, and he was tired of cheap women and random hookups. He wanted to devote himself to one woman, but it had to be the one chosen for him. Maybe he’d die alone, his legacy ending along with him.
Liam had a love-hate relationship with humankind. He used to work as a driver for the local lumber camp, but as alpha he preferred to stay on the land, ensuring it was safe. Most of his pack had outside jobs during the day, but at night they patrolled their territory in shifts. They had enemies that would be eager to claim their property, and there was no way he’d let that happen. It was survival of the fittest in their world.
He rarely ventured into the small town. The gossipy humans served to piss him off, and he wouldn’t feed their craving for information. After years of his refusing to warm up to them, they now kept their distance—exactly how he liked it. Their identities as shifters was a carefully guarded secret, and since many humans in the small northern town liked to hunt, that didn’t put them on common ground. Zealous hunters often targeted wolves.
The grocery store was a beacon of light as he emerged from the forest. He rolled out his shoulders. He’d get what he needed and have a full-blown pity party. He hoped his mood would improve once he had the main cabin to himself again.
He ran a hand through his hair. This would be a quick stop. His boots crunched along the gravel before he stepped onto the paved parking area. A couple streetlamps highlighted the nearly empty lot. He knew the navy pickup belonged to the cashier, and the guy stocking shelves owned the red Honda. The manager was a loud bitch, but she was only in during the day.
As he neared the front doors, an unusual scent caught his attention. It made his fangs prick his gums. He resisted his urge to shift and investigate. He’d come to the store for his booze, and he planned to get it. Liam didn’t trust his own instincts at this point, not with his black mood.
Alphie sensed his unease, barking into the darkness. “Relax, boy. I’ll just be a minute.” He left his dog outside and entered the grocery store.
The bright florescent lights irritated his eyes once he entered. As a shifter, all his senses were magnified. He grabbed a basket and began his search. Often, he ate in his wolf form—rabbit, deer, whatever he decided to hunt. Sometimes he’d save what he caught and barbeque it at their camp, human-style. That’s why he liked to have hot sauce on hand.
As he entered the first aisle, the cashier monitored his every move. Did she think he was there to steal? He ground his teeth, tempted to tell her to “fuck off”. Instead, he made his way through the store, collecting what he needed.
He still couldn’t get that scent off his mind. It was even stronger inside the store, perfuming the air to the point of distraction. It was delicious, a sweet vanilla that made his cock hard. He nearly laughed out loud. Having blue balls for months had made him delirious.
As he turned the corner into the produce aisle, he saw her. She was a vision, long red hair twirled up on top her head, and big green eyes. He watched her move, putting things into her basket without paying attention to her surroundings. She was the essence of a woman, with lush curves and pouty lips—and she was, without a doubt, the source of the scent.
He practically drooled as he envisioned stripping her naked and eating her until she came on his tongue. He licked his lips. Gods, he wanted her, and he would have her. Never in his life had he felt such a strong pull.
The sudden realization finally struck him, nearly bringing him to his knees. She was his mate. Could it actually be true? Was she the one sent by the gods? She was human, but at this point in his life, he didn’t give a fuck. She was gorgeous, a ray of sunshine to his darkness.
He watched her for the longest time, frozen in place at the end of the aisle. Where had she come from? Maybe dropped right out of heaven. He’d never seen her before, and he sure as hell had never noticed that addictive scent before. She had rounded hips, perfect for child-bearing. He could already imagine her ripe with their child, with his heir. Her tits were huge, barely contained under her beige canvas jacket. Liam had never wanted a woman more.
Rebecca wasn’t a people person.
Shopping at the local grocery store each week was a necessary evil. She came an hour before closing when she knew it would be empty, and the sun had set, so no prying eyes could stare at her in the parking lot.
She’d moved to the micro-town five months ago. City life was too hectic, and her therapist recommended somewhere with a slower pace. Since her editing job was an online position, she had the flexibility to pack up and move anywhere in the world. She’d stopped taking her anxiety meds in exchange for the endless miles of evergreens beyond her apartment windows. The fresh air, the quiet, it had all done wonders for her peace of mind.
The townsfolk were a different story. They loved to stare, even point, probably because she was n
Rebecca pulled her grocery list from her front pocket and glanced at her notes. The soft elevator music relaxed her. She needed the essentials and some fruit and vegetables. Since moving up north, she’d also vowed to start eating healthier.
She wandered up the produce aisle, glancing at the selection. Rebecca tried to imagine the meals she could make. They had fresh asparagus today, so she splurged and added it to her basket. Carrots, mini-potatoes, and Brussel sprouts would be nice sautéed in a sauce pan. She was so focused on her task that she bumped into a person.
She gasped, horrified. There hadn’t been anyone in sight before she started looking at the vegetables. “I’m so sorry,” she said. She set down her basket.
The man took a step back and narrowed his eyes as he looked her up and down. Yes, she had a lot of weight left to lose, but he didn’t have to be obvious about it. “I’ve never seen you before.”
“I’m new to town. Well, kind of new. I’ve only been here for five months.”
He smirked, a dimple appearing on his cheek.
“What’s your name?”
He glanced at her basket. “You like vegetables?”
“They’re healthy,” she said. “I’ll Google a good way to cook them up.”
She paused. Was he joking?
“I don’t come to town too often.” The man held out his basket. “But I do like to indulge myself once in a while.” He winked. There was a bottle of hot sauce, a bag of limes, and two bottles of whisky.
Rebecca cocked her head to the side. “No veggies?”
“There’s enough plant life in the forest. Trust me, I don’t want any more.”
The guy was a good foot taller than she was. He wore a light jacket, but the t-shirt underneath pulled taut over a hard body. In all the months she’d been in her new town, he was the first guy worth looking at. His stubble was coming in thick, and his eyes were dark and hypnotic. If she’d seen him before, she definitely would have remembered.
“Well, I’m sorry for bumping you. You’re okay, right?”
“More than okay.”
Why hadn’t he moved? He kept staring at her like he recognized her or something. Her instincts told her to keep talking, to flirt with the stranger. The devil on her other shoulder reminded her that she was socially awkward, destined to live out her life alone. As usual, she sided with her negative thoughts and kept walking away from him.
Life in her new apartment consisted of sitting behind a screen most of the time. She edited books and articles by day and read romance novels by night. By now she should be looking for her own happily ever after, but dating required socialization. Since she rarely left her home, and wasn’t interested in social gatherings, she was shit out of luck. Internet dating didn’t interest her, even if she could hide behind her computer.
After she paid for her food, collected her bags, and walked to the exit, she hated herself more than ever. Why couldn’t she take a risk for once? She was too afraid of rejection and disappointment to the point she’d never find a man.
Her eyes adjusted to the minimal lighting outside as she lugged her four bags. She didn’t like to drive, and the walk wasn’t too far. There were two pickup trucks in the parking lot that weren’t there when she’d come earlier. The engines were running, the headlights highlighting a group of men. She hoped she’d be able to slip by on the path undetected.
“Hey, what you got there?”
Rebecca prayed they weren’t talking to her. She hoped she was hidden by shadows.
“Hey, sugar tits, come over here.”
She picked up the pace, her heart racing like a freight train. When an arm wrapped around her from behind before she could escape the parking lot, she screamed and dropped her bags. Another man took her bags to the bed of his pickup truck and started rooting through the contents.
“Nothing interesting here,” the man said. He tossed her asparagus, baby potatoes rolling out in several directions. Tears burned her eyes as she struggled against the man holding her.
“Stop it,” she shouted. “Leave me alone.”
“Why, baby? The night is young,” said the man holding her.
Is this actually happening to me? The townsfolk could be creepy, but they weren’t criminals. She’d never seen these men before and wasn’t sure what their plans were for her. Were they going to rape her? Would someone from inside the store hear her screams?
The arm pinned around her chest loosened slightly. It gave her enough room to struggle free. They turned to the voice at once. It was the stranger from the grocery store. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome. She felt relieved and guilty because he’d never be able to protect her from six guys.
He had a German shepherd, and its fangs were bared. Maybe the dog would scare them off.
“We’re just having a little fun here. Why don’t you back off?” said one of the men. The guys from the truck closed in on them.
“You can have all the fucking fun you want, boys. But not with her.”
No one had ever stuck up for her, and her heart swelled watching her knight in shining armor risk life and limb for her. She didn’t even know his name, because she’d been too scared to ask.
“Give us your bags, hotshot. Then leave while you can.”
She stood frozen in place, unwilling to save herself and leave him to fend for himself. Rebecca hoped for a miracle.
“I won’t be giving you anything. Of course, you can always try to take my bags,” he said.
Why was he antagonizing them? She could smell the alcohol coming from the men, and they were big and burly bushmen.
“Yeah, that’s a real good idea.” The man who’d been holding her a minute ago, walked toward the stranger and his dog. The shepherd began barking and growling, but his owner told him to settle.
As soon as the guy reached for the grocery bag, her mystery man gave him a short, quick jab to the face with his free hand. The impact must have been intense because he fell over, unconscious, like a tree toppling in the forest.
“What the hell?” said one of the other men.
“Alphie, watch my bag, eh?” The stranger set his groceries down beside his dog, who was now sitting obediently, albeit not happy with the conflict.
She watched in horror, waiting for the remaining five men to beat the stranger senseless. Instead, he moved like a skilled mercenary, taking them out one by one. She swore he hadn’t even put effort into his attack, looking bored but pissed off.
Within seconds, all the men were on the ground in various states of injury. Some groaned and cried out; others were knocked out. Her stranger adjusted his jacket, then returned to collect his bag and his dog. She still hadn’t moved.
“Rebecca, are you okay?”
“H-how do you know my name?” Her anxiety was through the damn roof, and it didn’t help that she no longer took any medications to calm her down. She was determined to live a more natural, healthy life.
He smirked. “You told me in the grocery store, remember? My name’s Liam, by the way.” One of the men attempted to sit up, and Liam kicked him in the chest.
“I don’t know what to say.”
“You look a little pale. I should walk you home.” He glanced over at her bags. Her groceries were strewn all over the truck bed and parking lot. Liam frowned.
“Thank you,” she said. “I don’t know what I would have done without you.”
He shrugged. “Deer season opens this Saturday, so the weekend warriors will be flocking to town. Most of them are assholes, so you should be on guard the next couple weeks.”
“I never knew.”
He hooked his arm around hers and helped her up the path to the street. She was still in shock. They walked along the side of the road towards her apartment. It was a small triplex that used to be a century home. She had the loft, and she loved the views from
“So, Rebecca, tell me about yourself,” he said.
She decided not to let her fears control her this time. She’d been given a round two with the same man. “I’m an editor. I work from home.” Oh God, that was about it. Her life sounded more pathetic than it seemed.
“I love to read. Guess we have something in common.”
The three of them continued along, the road getting darker as they grew more distant from the lights in the parking lot. “Why didn’t you let your dog help you out back there? Not that you needed it.”
He smiled. “I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
Was it possible to fall in love in less than an hour?
“I love animals,” she said. “Dogs, cats, rabbits, you name it.”
Liam stopped, turning her to face him. “We’re a lot alike, you and I. What about wolves, Rebecca? Do you like them?”
“I love wolves,” she said. “They’re so beautiful and feral. Of course, I wouldn’t like to meet one on the way home.” She giggled, then stopped herself.
“You have nothing to worry about,” he said. Liam trailed his finger along the edge of her jaw, a feather-light touch. The way he looked at her made butterflies flutter in her stomach. “I’ll protect you from the wolves, too.”
Rebecca might be a thirty-year-old virgin, but she could envision changing all that for a man like him. “I bet you could.”
They began walking again, their hands occasionally brushing, bringing her body to life. The crickets droned all around them, a soothing melody. She was surprised how comfortable she felt around this man. New people usually made her clam up.
When they reached her home, they stopped in front. A lamp she’d left on glowed from the third-floor window. The faint scent of his woodsy cologne had her breathing in deeply for more. “Who’s waiting for you?” he asked. “Are you married?”