Dark Wolf, страница 1
Shifters of Dundaire 1
By: Angelique Armae
Publisher: Summerborne Books, LLC
Copyright © 2016 Josephine Piraneo
Cover by Glass Slipper WebDesign
Formatting by Glass Slipper WebDesign
Cover photo from Adobe Stock
Shifters of Dundaire Series
Novella 1: DARK WOLF
Novella 2: CHRISTMAS WOLF
Novella 3: VIKING WOLF
Novella 4: HIGHLAND WOLF
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Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All names, characters, places and incidents in this book are fiction and figments of the author’s imagination and are not to be construed as real. All Rights Reserved. http://www.angeliquearmae.com
New Orleans, Louisiana.
Weddings were not his thing.
Callen MacHendrie, heir to Scotland’s oldest shapeshifter clan, stood on the balcony of his uncle Mortimer’s St. Charles Avenue mansion, and thanked his lucky stars for having fled the ballroom in the nick of time. A second longer and that high-as-a-kite D.J. his uncle had hired, would have had him ushered onto the dance floor along with all the other unmated shifters. Talk about being clueless. Even omegas knew you didna crowd horny wolves and lusty vamps into a pint-sized space. Music alone could turn the deadest of the undead into wanton creatures. Toss into the mix a few shit-faced, feral shifters, and you’d soon have an all-out howl fest on your hands.
He shook his head and tried to erase the perverse images from his mind. At least he wouldna have to deal with that nonsense tonight as he’d be half-way to Dundaire before whatever racket was to come, broke loose. Deciding to leave early and take the redeye to Glasgow was the smartest move he’d made all week.
He leaned on his cane and stepped forward, put a bit more distance between him and the rowdy wedding guests. The steady beat of music drummed at his ears as the odor of musk coupled with sweat, tempted his nose.
He closed his eyes and tried to remember what it was like to dance. To get close enough to a female who wanted to be near him for the sheer pleasure of it, rather than having been paid to do it or having been forced into it by a clan elder who only wanted to marry her off solely for the status of being a future-Alpha’s in-law.
He hadn’t danced in centuries. And today’s moves were light years away from the ones he’d been taught back in Medieval Scotland.
His chest constricted, filled up with that good-for-nothing empty feeling. And it did a damn near perfect job at slowly eating away at his soul, at sucking up any pleasure he sought from life. But it never touched anger. Nope. Wouldn’t even sample the most miniscule bit of the damn emotion.
Frickin’ cursed leg. He was never going to get away from the hex embedded in his thigh.
He was a beta with no hope for ever marrying or having a pack of his own and he had better get used to that pitiful station in life because it wasn’t going to change.
Callen opened his eyes and turned back toward the ballroom.
An uneven floorboard snagged his dress shoe, forced his foot to slip. As his leg gave out, his cane went flying.
The star-filled sky flipped and fell out of view.
He landed on his ass.
Anger rose in his soul. Another stupid fall.
A gaggle of giggles reached his ears.
The pity he’d garnered this morning with the whole tripping at the altar fiasco apparently wasn’t enough shame for one day.
He ignored the laughs coming from the ballroom and stretched for his cane. Grabbing the silver stick, he pushed himself up and then brushed off his jacket, his hand discovering a tear in the tuxedo’s left cuff. Bloody bum leg.
He glared ahead, eyed a group of women staring at him from inside the ballroom. They must think him a total dufus.
A howl rose in his throat.
Down boy. Those chits are more than likely half-drunk and don’t realize what they’re doing. Don’t take their laughs to heart.
He wiped the sneer from his lips.
His wolf settled back down, but not before giving up a low grunt.
A leer from a vicious-looking beast was probably exactly what those women deserved, but agreeing with the animal who owned his soul would only infuriate the wolf. And who the hell knew what would happen then.
No, better to teach his wolf to ignore the hurt its heart suffered, as he’d learned to do years ago himself.
His gaze lingered at the open double doors.
The women quickly scooted away.
Gathering his senses, he retreated in the other direction. He limped forward, his right thigh throbbing. The curse festering in his leg always grew worse at night and summer’s sticky heat only escalated the discomfort. Not that it took much to intensify. These periodic flare-ups were a bitch.
Taking a deep breath, he tried to focus elsewhere, but the pain in his leg only made him reflect on the bastard at the core of his agony.
He’d give anything to meet up with the no-good Viking witch who had cursed him, left him to live in torment for a thousand years. But his sources were always one step behind the bastard.
He rubbed the back of his neck, worked out the kink that was starting to knot.
A warm breeze carried across the moonlit balcony.
Callen headed toward the balustrade. He leaned heavily on his cane, forced his palm down on the snarling wolf head topping the silver walking stick. The beast roared to life, its sharp teeth nipping at his flesh.
Down boy. His wolf hadn’t been this agitated in months.
The normally inanimate ornament stilled.
He might not have a wolf pack that wanted him as leader, but he’d always have his trusted sword and its magick-infused scabbard-turned-cane that contained one-half of his wolf’s soul. Even hexed, the blade remained loyal to him.
As he walked, a low howl emanated from the wolf head.
Callen stopped mid-stride and lifted the cane. He gave the silver topper a good nudge, made sure it wasn’t about to come loose and set free the energy infused in the hexed blade housed inside. His falling on his ass, twice, was enough chaos for one day. Unleashing the sword’s tainted magick on an unsuspecting world was a disaster he did not need to deal with at the moment.
Content with his findings, he continued his trek across the balcony.
At the row of marble spindles, he rested, sucked in a gulp of warm, humid air. Heat filled his lungs.
How in hell any vampire could stand living in a hot, muggy climate was beyond him. But his uncle Mortimer had come to favor this city and that meant as the man’s eldest nephew, he too, would be spending a lot of time in New Orleans. Not that he didn’t like the place. In truth, the city fascinated him, its centuries-old vibe of magick offered his soul an odd feel he couldn’t quite explain. But the summer heat stifled him, irked the wolf in his soul, and for that reason alone he would never trade his beloved Highlands for any sunbaked metropolis. But he did have to stick it out a few more hours for Mortimer’s sake. The man had gone above and beyond caring for him and his brothers after their mother died. No other vampire, desp
Another stab of pain filtered through his right thigh.
He huffed and leaned on his cane.
“You really need to have that looked at.” His uncle Mortimer’s voice called from the other side of the balcony.
“And curse another being? Never.”
The vampire appeared next to him. “It’s not about managing the damn curse, Cal. It’s about living. And I haven’t seen you live in centuries.”
A lecture wasn’t what he needed now. “I’m fine. I haven’t aged since the day I turned twenty-eight. And other than the leg hampering me a bit, I can do anything I did back then.”
“You need a healer.”
“We’ve had this conversation before and it’s not going to change.” The instant a supernatural doctor touched his leg, the energy created from that contact would disperse into the person working on his limb and they’d share his curse. “I will not have another soul suffer this pain.”
“We don’t know for sure if that will happen.”
Mere words weren’t enough of a guarantee. “Jarle warned me himself, that if manipulated, the curse can spread. It’s the one time I believe the Viking spoke the truth. But even if he lied, it’s too risky to toy with another person’s life. I can live with the pain.”
“But you might be able to be free of it.”
“Might. And that’s not good enough. Besides, I canna just think of myself. If the curse is capable of spreading to another soul once it’s been manipulated, it might attack my brothers, my nephews, maybe even my father. I canna let that happen.”
Mortimer remained silent. He leaned on the balustrade and folded his hands, gazed out at the lawn below.
Callen let out a deep breath. Now would be a good time to tell his uncle about going home to Dundaire. “I’m taking the redeye back to Scotland tonight.”
“Rhys called earlier and said another batch of artifacts arrived at Wolfsden this morning. Apparently, the excavations at your ruined castle are moving faster than either of us expected. And I need to get those items sorted. The sooner the better.”
Mortimer pushed off the marble railing and placed his hand on Callen’s shoulder. “That’s fine. Let me know if your mother’s locket is found. I’d love to see it again.”
“Of course.” He paused. He hadn’t told his father he was returning to Dundaire yet. “Can you do me a favor?”
“Tell my dad to stay here. He needs time away from Wolfsden and I don’t want him to be combing through the items if they contain my mother’s belongings. He’s a sentimental old dog and I know it will be hard for him to see her things just tossed about. I want them cleaned up and organized in a meaningful way that’s more than just a pile of stuff, before he takes a look at them.”
The vampire nodded. “Don’t worry about your father. I’ll see to it he stays here a few more days.” Mortimer patted Callen’s shoulder, then vanished.
His family had been through so much over the centuries, at least this trip to New Orleans ended with a celebration and not another disaster.
He checked his watch. He better get his ass in gear and off to the airport or he’d have one pissed off his pilot to deal with. Getting back to Dundaire, to Wolfsden Keep, would do him good.
Home was where he belonged.
Home was free of preternatural women who didna want to have anything to do with him.
Home, at the moment, was free of the pack that didna want a cursed, wounded future-Alpha who cudna lead them.
Home was safe.
And safe was exactly how he intended to spend the next week.
Miranda Kendrick studied the open silver locket resting on the table’s metal surface. It belonged to a broken heart, probably female, probably human. Why that mattered to her, she didn’t know, but her coven master, Jarle, had many slaves across the globe and the one who’s heart aura was encased in this locket must have owed the witch a huge debt. Binding a heart twice wasn’t the norm.
Jarle looked up from blending a batch of herbs. “Is it still beating?”
“Yes.” The pulsing aura filling the walnut-sized cavity emitted a low hum each time it thumped. The vibration tingled her fingers.
“Finish the deed before the twelfth beat or we’ll lose the chance to double bind it. Once lost, you can’t reclaim a heart.”
She dropped a pea-sized piece of obsidian inside the locket, then added a few purple buds of French lavender.
“You’re doing it all wrong.” Jarle snatched the metal trinket and dragged it toward him. “You can’t bind a heart with obsidian. The stone blocks negativity.” He scowled. “Are you trying to betray me, slave?”
“Of course not.”
He glared at her, his gray eyes turning black as coal. “If I find out someone is paying you to break the spell on their heart, I’ll triple the one on yours. Right now I’ve only placed you under a protection spell to keep you safe. But I can change that at any time.”
She reached for the locket draped around her neck and rubbed its ornate, raised pattern. The scent of tarnished silver assaulted her nose. Being bound to Jarle, even in the slightest way, was suffocating. Tripling those ties to him would no doubt choke whatever life she had left, out of her.
“You better brush up on your magick, slave, or I’ll show you what it truly means to anger me. Is that clear?”
He flew across the table and grabbed her cheeks, dug his bony fingers into her flesh. “I didn’t hear you.”
Miranda’s mouth ached, but she knew better than to keep silent. “Yes.” The answer came out mumbled.
The witch released her. “You’re going north tomorrow.” He finished binding the heart in the locket Miranda had been working on, then tossed the trinket back at her.
She scrambled to catch the thing before it bounced to the floor. “Where to?”
“Dundaire. It isn’t on any map, so you probably haven’t heard of it. I’m sending you to Wolfsden Keep as an intern to help an old enemy of mine. He has something I want. And you’re going to get it for me.”
She didn’t like doing Jarle’s dirty work. “I’ve already paid my debt to you.”
“Your debt will be erased when I say so.”
“But I’ve been with you for two years. Surely that’s long enough.”
Jarle’s nostrils flared, made her think of a raging bull homing in on a target that had nowhere to run.
She hated when he turned angry, especially when she was said target. But the mythical bull wasn’t her only concern. Remnants of dark magick in the form of gray wispy matter, released from the Viking’s aura and swarmed the room like angry bees whose hive had just been disturbed.
She ducked as a tendril of cursed energy came her way.
Jarle remained on his side of the table, the thin, front braids of his hair standing out as if charged by electricity.
Miranda stepped back.
Silver beads from Jarle’s braids slid down and bounced to the floor, freeing his hair, allowing the gray-streaked locks to fan out about his time-worn face. “I took you off that filthy New York street. Gave you a bed. Fed you. Cultivated your magick. How can you put a price on what I’ve done for you?”
Fear filled her veins. She’d never seen Jarle this angry. “I didn’t mean to sound ungrateful. It’s just I thought you’d free me by now.”
“I own you, Miranda. And until I no longer have use for you, you’ll do as I say or your dirty little secret will be made public.”
She couldn’t have the details of that night Jarle had found her, getting out. Just thinking about the horrid state she had been in back then, brought bile to her throat. From her mal
“I can always send you back, Miranda. I’m sure those scientists would love to have their little experiment returned to them.”
Her stomach knotted. “What do I need to do in Dundaire?”
The swirling gray energy emitting from Jarle’s aura, retreated back into his body. “You’re a quick learner, slave.” He smirked. “I want you to retrieve a sword.”
“Give me specifics.”
The man rounded the table and pulled up a metal stool next to her. The smell of garlic fanned her face as he let out a deep breath. “It’s nothing fancy. Thinner and much lighter than a claymore. And it might or might not have a hilt.”
“So it may be just a blade?”
“Any identifying marks?”
“A curse is inscribed along its edge.”
Great. Another vexed artifact. The last one had a living soul inside it and she hadn’t a clue about that fact until she was half way back to Dover from Calais. Trying to conceal a wailing, shouting, tormented soul while on a ferry in the middle of the English Channel was no easy job. Water attracts spirits. And on that particular day a whole graveyard of ghosts followed the soul she was transporting. “Are they expecting me at this Wolfsden Keep?”
“What’s my cover?”
“You’ll be posing as a grad student. Wolfsden put the word out at several universities that they had a position open and were looking for a student to help catalogue recently discovered artifacts from a dig site the family owns. You’ve proven good with Celtic objects in the past, hence the reason I’m sending you on this job. I want you back in a week.”