Rylie Gresham, Alpha of the endangered werewolf species, is pregnant. The fact that she’s only eighteen and maybe a tiny bit in love with her boyfriend’s brother isn’t even the worst part: the baby is going to be a werewolf, too. Certain that Seth is the father, she finally agrees to marry him, even if her heart is still filled with doubt.
Abel is being held captive by Cain when he hears about Rylie’s condition–and the shocking circumstances surrounding the conception. Rylie and Abel have been mating on the full moons, so there’s a chance that he’s the father, and she has no clue. Now Abel has to escape Cain and crash the wedding before his mate marries his brother.
A zombie mother-in-law, back-stabbing hunters, and wicked morning sickness mean that they’re all in for one heck of a party.
Abel punched the button for the intercom into the California sanctuary for the fourth time. After the way he had left, Abel didn’t exactly expect to be greeted with shouts of delight and hugs, but he also didn’t expect to be totally ignored.
“Come on,” he muttered, peering through the gates into the fog. The road into the sanctuary had been designed to keep people from seeing inside, and paired with the tall brick walls and barbed wire fence, it did a pretty good job of looking intimidating and unwelcoming.
Abel wasn’t easy to intimidate, but he definitely felt unwelcome.
He hit the button one more time.
“Levi, you punk, I know you’re there,” he growled into the speaker. “Let me in!”
Still, nothing happened.
Abel stripped off his jacket, leaving his muscular arms and the pistols in his shoulder rig bared to the night, and threw the coat over the wire. He scaled the gate, hopped safely to the other side, and pulled the coat down with him. He grumbled as he jerked the coat closed around his black wife-beater again.
Breaking into a jog, he followed the shortcuts that he had memorized in his time living at the sanctuary, and cut a path straight toward the house. The grounds were completely silent. If Abel had been a little more morbid, he might have even thought of them as… dead.
As he approached the front doors of the sprawling manor house, a dark lump appeared in the fog. He couldn’t tell what it was from that distance, but he had a pretty good feeling. He had seen a lot of dead bodies in his time as werewolf hunter, and they all kind of looked the same, after a while.
Abel kneeled next to the body and pushed it onto its back.
Eldon. One half of the resident married couple. His throat had been torn out, and he hadn’t managed to heal from it—even werewolves weren’t invulnerable.
So Cain hadn’t been bluffing when he said that his men had attacked the sanctuary.
Abel’s hands clenched into fists, and he fought not to scream his frustrations into the fog. Instead, he moved to the front doors and found them standing open; the foyer was cold and damp. It was also littered with three more bodies.
He steeled himself and went about the grim duty of finding all of the dead.
It took over an hour, but by the time he pulled the bodies into a pile outside, the fog hadn’t yet receded. In fact, it only seemed to thicken, making the day seem mournfully quiet.
Once he was sure that he didn’t smell any other bodies in the house, he took inventory of the ones he had piled together.
Over a dozen people dead.
He didn’t know most of them—they had never come out to the Gresham sanctuary for a visit. At least one of the bodies wasn’t a werewolf at all; it was a witch in Scott Whyte’s coven. And, judging by all the black they were wearing, three of them were with the Union.
His wolf stirred as he pulled himself away from the pile of bodies to find wood. Usually, he didn’t have to fight with his inner beast the way Rylie did, so it surprised him to feel the wolf swell in his heart. It recognized members of its pack, and it was sad. Sad.
“Shut up, you big sissy,” he muttered to himself.
Great, now he was talking to himself, too. He was going to turn into Rylie any day now.
He lost himself in the comforting motions of hard, physical labor. Scott would have been ticked to see Abel ripping trees from the earth, but there were plenty on the property; he probably wouldn’t even notice around all the dead people, if he ever came back.
The condition in which he had found the dead bugged him. Not just the indignity of letting the pack rot in the open air. It just made no sense to leave all those bodies behind. The Union liked to keep tight control of what it perceived to be its resources—which included bodies. As Abel understood it, they liked to pull things apart. Study them. Find what made them tick.
If the coven hadn’t collected the bodies, and the Union had also left them behind, then that meant something must have forced the survivors away from the sanctuary. They hadn’t left of their own free will.
He piled the driest wood he could find around the bodies. Just because nobody had come looking yet didn’t mean that they weren’t going to, and he didn’t want the cops to find anything but dust.
Abel located cans of gasoline in the shed and spilled it over the bodies and the wood, his heart heavy and a knot in his throat. Fluid splashed over the slack faces of his pack. It soaked into their shirts and left them glistening.
He set the can aside, stepped back, and took out his lighter.
Everyone deserved a dignified burial. Something befitting their spirituality that would also please their families and honor their memory. But with a flickering flame dancing over Abel’s chilly fingertips, he couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would be good enough.
“Rest in peace,” he muttered, flicking the lighter onto the pyre.
The wood caught. Fire spread. Soon, despite the fog, it was a blazing bonfire. He couldn’t even make out the bodies inside. But Abel watched as it burned down, jaw set and eyes blurry.
“I’ll avenge you,” he told the bonfire. “Trust me. I will.”
His sensitive ears picked up a distant sound—the noise of the front gate creaking open as someone forced their way inside.
Abel tensed. Someone was approaching him—someone that smelled like pack. But this person wasn’t friendly. He reeked of corpse. A dead body that was much older than the fresh bodies Abel was burning. One that had already dried, decayed, and had gotten up to walk around again anyway.
He reached inside his jacket as a figure emerged from the fog, but he didn’t draw his gun fast enough.
“Hello, brother,” Cain said. “Let’s have a talk.”