Abel is struggling to find his footing at the werewolf sanctuary when he receives terrible news: the girl he loves and his brother have vanished. Seth calls to claim that they’re eloping, but Abel knows it’s a lie. There’s no way that Rylie would get married without telling him. Not when the memory of her scorching kiss is still burning on his lips.
Certain that something is wrong, Abel drops everything to rescue Rylie and Seth–and stake his claim over his mate.
Abel was pretty sure that Levi had a death wish.
The guy was obnoxious on his best days, but the day that the pack moved into the California sanctuary was definitely not his best day. In fact, it might as well have been the worst since Abel came to know Levi—and he had seen some pretty terrible days.
It started first thing in the morning.
“Whoa, where are you going?” Levi asked, grabbing Abel’s shoulder when he moved to carry his bag into the west wing of the sanctuary.
Abel glared at the hand on his arm and swallowed back a growl. Scott was talking to a girl with a pixie cut at the end of the hall. He seriously disapproved of pack members fighting, and Abel tried not to piss off the man in charge.
“I’m going to my room,” Abel said.
Levi stepped in front of him. “That’s not your bedroom.”
Abel looked at the door in the hallway. They all looked the same: heavy iron painted to a friendly shade of white. But his bedroom in particular was at the end of the hall. There was no mistaking it for another.
“This is always my bedroom when I stay here,” Abel said. “And you better get that hand off of me if you want to keep it.”
Levi straightened his spine. He wasn’t nearly tall enough to intimidate Abel, but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t try. “I rearranged the rooms.”
Abel ignored him and shoved the door open.
His bed was covered in an unfamiliar comforter. Posters of soccer players were plastered on every inch of wall, and those were familiar—Abel had tolerated having them in his shared bedroom at the other sanctuary for months, too.
“I needed a room close to my dad’s office,” Levi said. “You’re in the east wing now.” The smug, petulant voice was almost enough to make Abel clock him.
“On whose authority?”
Levi glared. “Mine.”
Abel jabbed a finger at the adjacent bedroom. “That’s Rylie’s room. Remember Rylie? The Alpha? That’s where she stays, and I’m supposed to be next to her. Did you move her, too?”
“The Alpha’s room is intact, but you’re not the Alpha. I can move you around all I want.” He mimicked Abel’s threatening tone. “Now you better get out of my room if you want to have any room at all.”
Abel pulled his fist back to punch that look off of Levi’s face.
Scott’s voice cut through the hall. “Hey!” He stepped away from the girl to join them and Abel dropped his hand. He clenched his fist so hard that the knuckles popped. “Is there a problem?”
“Nope,” Levi said.
He smiled and shut his door.
The day didn’t improve after that.
There was an organization chart posted in the kitchen. Abel took a look over the heads of the werewolves clustering around it.
He had been moved to the smallest bedroom in the back corner of the east wing. The window faced the brick wall bordering the property. The bedrooms hadn’t been renovated as recently as those on the west wing, either; the paint was a dull shade of seventies yellow, and there were weird stains on the carpet.
He tracked down Scott, who was helping move Eldon and his wife into their bedroom. They were in the west wing.
“I’m not sleeping out there,” Abel said.
Scott didn’t even look at him. “We’ll talk about this later. The Union’s trying to find a place for their generator. Can you go help them?”
He gritted his teeth and obeyed.
But Levi had already beaten him to the Union’s RVs.
“What are you doing here, Abel?” Levi asked, stepping away from Yasir and the generator.
Abel counted to ten before replying. Seth was always encouraging him to do that when he was about to lose his temper, but it only seemed to make him angrier. “I’m helping the Union.”
“I’ve got it under control. We don’t need you. Why don’t you go pine over your brother’s girlfriend some more?”
Levi marched away before Abel could think of a response.
Yeah. Levi definitely had a death wish.
It only got worse over the course of the night. The kid was everywhere: in the kitchen helping Stephanie Whyte prepare dinner; in the dining room when the pack gathered to eat; and on the lawn when everybody moved outside to listen to Yasir explain their defensive strategies.
But Scott was there, too. Which meant that Abel couldn’t respond the way he really wanted.
God, he missed the ranch.
He found himself wandering through the back fields of the sanctuary, alone in the cold night. The quiet was heavy. His only companion as he walked was the sound of his feet on the grass, and the occasional rustle of dried leaves.
Abel had never been at the Whyte sanctuary without Rylie before. Now he had only been there for twelve hours, and he already didn’t like it.
The walk didn’t improve anything. Not his mood or his situation.
He angled his path to head back to the house, hoping that he could sneak into the east wing without running into Levi again.
No such luck.
The pack was still talking outside when Abel returned. Levi spotted him and jogged across the grass to catch him, nose pink with cold. “I need you to take the early morning watch. We’re going to work with the Union on defense, and rotate people around the walls to watch for hunters. You start at two in the morning.”
It was already approaching midnight. Abel wouldn’t even be able to sleep before his shift.
He lowered his voice to a growl that the rest of the pack wouldn’t be able to hear. “What do you think you’re doing? Rearranging rooms? Coordinating with the Union? Ordering the pack around? Ordering me around?” The last one was easily Levi’s worst crime.
“I’m taking charge of my pack. Is that a problem?”
Abel laughed disbelievingly. “Your pack? Your pack?”
“Do you see anyone else here that can make that claim?” Levi asked, spreading his hands wide.
“Just because Rylie isn’t here—”
“The position is always up for grabs. It belongs to whoever can take it.” Levi turned to leave. “Have fun with the two o’clock shift. Howl if you get shot again.”
Abel fisted Levi’s shirt and almost jerked him off of his feet.
“Levi!” Scott called from the door.
Reluctantly, Abel dropped him. Levi smoothed his hands down his sweater instead of leaving immediately. “It takes more than being a bully to be Alpha,” he said. “You’ve got to be a leader. Whether or not Rylie is here, she’s no leader. And neither are you.”
He turned on his heel and went inside.
Abel’s mood was blacker than the night of a new moon. His nerves thrummed with tension, and he was pretty sure he would bite anyone that tried to mess with him on the way back to his new bedroom. Fortunately, there was only one other occupied bedroom in the east wing. The lights were on when Abel approached.
He spotted the room’s inhabitant as she headed out the door with a towel under her arm and toothbrush in hand. It was the girl with the pixie cut that Scott had been talking to earlier.
She smiled brightly when she saw him. “Hi there! Are you in exile, too?” Abel only gave her a sideways look. She waved toward the west wing with her toothbrush. “All of the other rooms are filled, so Levi moved me out here. I think he doesn’t like me because I accidentally trashed his computer.” She stuck out her free hand. “I’m Crystal.” She pronounced it with an emphasis on the second syllable.
Abel didn’t take her hand.
His flat response only seemed to make her smile brighter.
“You must be Abel. I’ve heard about you.” She shrugged one shoulder. “Anyone who doesn’t get along with Levi is cool with me. The enemy of my enemy… right? And now we’re practically roommates. We can be friends.”
“I don’t need any friends.” The only friend he cared about was running across the country with his brother. Not a cheerful thought.
He turned to leave Crystal.
Footsteps pounded up the hallway.
Bekah appeared, out of breath and pale. “Oh, thank God you’re here, Abel.”
Unease crept over him. It was never a good sign when Bekah panicked. That could have meant anything—from “someone didn’t rinse off their dishes” to “Scott had a heart attack and died.” Either one would have her in a fit for days.
“What’s up?” he asked.
She grimaced. “Seth and Rylie are missing.”