by Rebecca Royce
The Westervelt Wolves - Book 2
Available from Liquid Silver Books
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In print at Amazon
Three years ago, Summer Morrison’s happy, normal life was thrown into upheaval. Forced to discover, before she was ready, that she was half-wolf shifter and mated to the pack’s enforcer has left Summer moody, shaken, and resentful. When tragedy strikes her family, Summer is forced to come back to the world of the Westervelt Wolves…and into the arms of Cullen Murphy.
Cullen has waited three years for Summer, having promised her mother he would give her time to grow up. But he’s never forgotten his mate and craved her presence since he first saw her on the battlefield three years earlier. The trouble is, now that Cullen has Summer, he has no idea what to do with her. Three hundred years of being alone has left Cullen socially inept and more lonesome than he would ever admit. He lives with the guilt and shame of his deeds, while knowing his role is pivotal to the pack’s survival.
Together, Cullen and Summer will heal each other’s wounds and discover that life is worth living as long as they are together. Now there’s just the little matter of Kendrick and Claudius, their evil henchmen, the army of miscreant wolves, and the demons that keep attacking. If they can survive, their love will be everlasting. But failure will mean not only their destruction, but the end of the Westervelt Wolves.
When love is eternal, failure is not an option.
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Someone inside her parents’ house was dead.
Summer Morrison shut the front door with a thud and covered her nose and mouth with her hands. She tried not to gag. The stench of rotten flesh permeated through her hands, into her nasal passages and then coursed around her bloodstream. Her heart pounded and her stomach churned as its contents threatened to make an undesired reappearance.
Whatever was dead hadn’t been that way very long or she would have smelled the putrid rot outside on the street. Even so, to her, inside the house, it smelled like it was days decayed. Her white wolf paced back and forth inside of her. The four-legged part of her wanted to shift. She felt the dry prickle of the change start in her eyes. She blinked to clear the sensation and quelled the urge. She couldn’t succumb to that now.
In three years, her wolf’s nose had never been wrong.
She needed information but her wolf wasn’t giving it to her. Who is dead?
I’m not telling you.
What did that mean? Since the day the shifter knowledge had been forced upon her, Summer had struggled with her inner canine to give her a moment’s silence. Now, when she needed to know the identity of the dead person, her wolf decided to play games.
Part of Summer, the sane human part, wanted to turn around and run out the front door. But if she’d wanted to cower or hide she should have turned around and run away the second she’d stepped in the house. She could go back to New York and her disastrous singing career. Maybe she could even talk her landlady into not throwing her out of her apartment for being so late in her rent. She shook her head. None of that was likely and besides she needed to focus on the situation at hand.
Her heart pounded in her chest, her pulse erratic, and she knew if she wasn’t careful she might hyperventilate. She concentrated on her breathing, it needed to stay even, and her footsteps, they needed to stay silent.
No. Stop being pushy.
Whatever the danger was, it must be near. But she had no control of herself as a wolf. She couldn’t afford to lose her conscious reason. She needed to stay human.
Summer’s legs felt heavy, like she’d overexerted them. She knew it was her wolf trying to force the shift.
No. She gritted her teeth. Until she knew what was happening, she would stay on two feet.
She reached the living room door. Cracked open, she pushed it the rest of the way with her left hand as she slid her back up against the adjacent wall.
“Why don’t you come in and join us, Summer?”
A cold, masculine voice with an accent she would guess to be Southern Creole was not someone she was familiar with. She leapt an inch in the air and pushed her back closer to the wall, as if it could hide her from whoever was in that room. Her hands shook and she clasped them together.
The rancid smell of death was so powerful that she could taste it in her mouth as it flowed through the open living room door. She wanted to spit to remove the acidic burn from her tongue. Summer imagined the death-smell filling the house and attaching itself to the brightly painted yellow walls of her mother’s front entranceway. They’d never be able to clean it off. She knew there was something she should focus on, something other than strange musings, something that eluded her, but her wolf’s constant bid for control of their brain kept her consciousness fuzzy.
What hadn’t she realized yet?
Seconds passed and she still hadn’t moved. Her feet seemed frozen to the floor.
Let me handle this, please. Summer wasn’t used to her wolf begging.
Fear clogged her reason and before she could stop it, the white light that precipitated a shift to her wolf form surrounded her.
“Now, now, someone in Westervelt must have taught you better control than that. Have you learned nothing in three years?”
A man—the voice—stepped through the doorway into her line of sight. As if she was under his command, the white light stopped and her wolf quieted inside of her. It was as though his voice had incapacitated her animal side.
The stranger stood well over six feet. She’d guess perhaps as lengthy as six-foot-four or five. In any case, he dwarfed her five-foot-nothing frame. Dark brown hair—odd on a man whose wrinkled face told her he was possibly pushing seventy—capped his pallid face. A stubby, black mustache bristled below a ruddy, porcine nose and black-dot eyes completed his corn-fattened-hog appearance.
“My name, child, is Claudius Brouseax. I imagine you’ve heard of me. I’ll ask you again, and this will be the last time I do it nicely, please come in the living room.”
She didn’t think it was prudent to tell the huge man she’d never heard of him. Right at this moment, she wished she’d paid attention to her mother’s long explanations about her wolf heritage. But it was too late to do anything about that now.
He extended his hand in a formal gesture of invitation. She didn’t move. She couldn’t bring herself to walk into that room and see who lay dead in it, even though she already knew. Somewhere in her mind she had known from the moment she stepped into the house. She just didn’t seem to be able to access the information.
Claudius exhaled audibly. “Next time, my children will assist me with your cooperation.”
Summer heard growls in the living room and she swallowed hard.
She felt her wolf struggle to wake up from sleep. For a moment she could see through her canine eyes. The room looked fuzzy and distorted, like she was drunk. The sensation passed and Summer was back in control of her vision. Wow, her wolf must be really out of it to relinquish control that quickly.
Fifteen. Bad wolves, sick. Bad man. He did something, make me go to sleep. I can hardly keep my eyes open but I guess I can wake up when you call me even though everything looks strange and smells wrong.
Relief swept through her when her wolf answered, which was strange because usually Summer couldn’t stand canine interference. Today she couldn’t be more grateful for it.
Fifteen wolves in the living room.
She didn’t stand a chance, and if she tried to flee, they would catch her before she even made it to the door.
She walked past Claudius to freeze a few steps over the entryway. She gagged and swallowed the bile that rose in her throat.
The wolves had formed a circle around a dead person that lay next to a dead wolf. Blood stained the floor around the two bodies, and the idle part of Summer’s brain noted it was also all over the couches and the walls. Several of the wolves looked up when she entered but others continued what they were doing which seemed to be either licking the blood off the floor or nibbling on the body.
Summer stared at the eyes of the few wolves who acknowledged her. Flat and dead was the only way to describe the reflection. So different from the wolves in her sister’s pack. She could see no sign of the humans within. The few that had looked grew bored with her and returned to pacing around the body.
Glad she hadn’t vomited yet, she covered her mouth with her hand just in case. Sweat broke out on her body and her limbs felt as if they were made of water.
Shift. I will make it so you don’t see this.
She couldn’t shift with fifteen wolves and Claudius present. It was important to know what happened around her. The bodies. She couldn’t seem to take her eyes from the bodies. Who were they? Why couldn’t she tell? It should be simple. She knew in the back of her head who was dead. But it was like prying open a box that had been crazy glued shut. She tugged and pulled but her consciousness refused to make order of the chaos around her.
Look at the body, identify who it was. One and one equaled two, but she couldn’t do the addition. She could look at the scene, but she couldn’t decipher what anything was.
I won’t let you know.
Summer heard strange whimpering noises, disquieted to realize they came from her throat. In some way, there was a disconnect happening to her. Her wolf’s interference kept her from seeing something important. What was it? She blinked and forced her consciousness back under her control.
Don’t look. Her wolf howled inside of her, desperate to come out.
Never good at following directions, Summer studied the figures in front of her. A man, late fifties, salt-and-pepper hair, dressed in a black Armani suit, his arm outstretched to the white wolf next to him, fingers pointed open like an immobilized spider. His eyes wide, dark-blue, light gone from them, lifeless. Summer sucked in her breath hard, and let it out with a sob.
She pushed her mind free, demanded that her wolf let her comprehend what she saw. The room suddenly looked brighter. She tilted her head to the side.
Oh no, Daddy.
A scream ripped from her mouth. It was her father’s dead, lifeless body strewn out before her. His throat ripped out, his chest torn open. He was dead. Her daddy. He’d held her on his shoulders until she was ten years old, even though it had hurt his back, just because she’d asked him to. He was dead. Gone from her life, forever. Destroyed by these monsters.
Summer ran toward her father and slipped on the blood on the floor. Oh god, she had fallen in her father’s blood. Covered in the sticky liquid she bellowed. “Get away from him.” The wolves blinked in response. She panted.
There was something else too. Why couldn’t she think? What didn’t make sense? Her daddy was dead and so was that wolf. Who was the wolf on the floor next to him? White and small, she looked so similar to how Summer looked when she was in wolf form. Like a wall crumbling, the denial blocking Summer’s brain crashed to the floor.
“Please, no.” Her voice clogged, she didn’t know if she said the words out loud.
The wolf was her mother. Summer’s breath came in short gasps. She’d stood in the hall for ten minutes and smelled the rot and decay, and done nothing. She was such a coward, she should kill Claudius or at least attempt to. Her parents deserved that much. But she felt frozen to her spot.
“I know what I was sent here to do,” Claudius said as he exhaled. His voice sounded bored, dull.
Summer wanted to gouge out his eyes. Her fists clenched at her sides. She needed to stay in control. Fifteen wolves in the room meant she would end up dead on the floor next to her parents if she gave in to the need to attack.
“But I’m wondering if it’s worth it, letting you go, or if it wouldn’t be better to take you with us.” Claudius sniffed the air, his red pig-nose twitched back and forth three times. “Ah,” Claudius grinned and drool fell from the left side of his mouth. “You’re ovulating.”
“I want you dead, you disgusting pig. Somehow, I will see you dead.” Her hands shook at her sides. If she lived through this, she would see him gone from the earth and she would make sure it was a painful departure.
Claudius’ mouth raised in a half-moon smile. “We’re going to do a little experiment on you, Ms. Summer Morrison. But first, I’m going to deliver the message I was sent here to deliver. This,” Claudius pointed at the shells that once housed her parents’ souls. “It’s just the beginning. Kendrick wants his pack back, and what Kendrick wants, he gets.”
“Really?” Inside, Summer’s wolf howled in fury, desperate for vengeance. “Because it seemed to me he wanted Tristan to kill Ashlee and they beat the hell out of that plan.” Even if it had cost Summer everything she treasured, she was glad at that moment Ashlee had succeeded.
Claudius hissed through his teeth and stepped closer to her. “Your older sister may have stopped us from sending spells to the island of Westervelt, but we still have the power. Tristan has yet to find the missing unmated females. We will find them first. You will never be safe. There is no place we can’t get you. Not even on your little island.”
The wolves raised their heads to the sky and howled. Summer sat on her knees and covered her ears from the sound. The wolves were old and ill kept, their fur knotted and oily, smelling of filth and disease.
Claudius wasn’t done talking. “Tell Tristan he has one month to give the pack back to Kendrick or we will start killing a member of your pack every week. It might be someone you know, or an unmated female our seers find for us, but every week someone will die. And we will start with his son, your nephew, Braden, and then second we will take your niece, his daughter, Virginia. You see there is nothing about your pack that we don’t know.” Claudius stalked towards her and reached out to stroke the side of her face. The bile in Summer’s stomach rose. “You’ll have to go to the island and tell Tristan yourself. Since the birth of your niece, he and your sister never leave their hiding place. Cowardly behavior for an Alpha and his mate.”
“If they’re so easy to get to, why don’t you tell them yourself?” Summer’s voice sounded steady, which surprised her, but she was grateful for the ruse.
Claudius shook his head. “I can’t believe Cullen has left you alone all this time.”
At the sound of his name, the anger Summer held back exploded inside of her. Screw it, better to die than put up with more of this. She roared and leapt two feet into the air. If she’d been a wolf, Claudius would have been dead. Her hands outstretched like claws, she swung at his face, digging her fingernails into his pasty white skin.
A string of profanity escaped his fat mouth, but Summer focused entirely on her desire to gauge out his eyes. His giant arm knocked her onto the ground, the force of it snatching the wind from her lungs, and she wheezed as she tried to catch her breath. He planted a massive foot on top of her and pinned her to the floor.
Claudius turned his head but kept his eyes on Summer. “Shift, Marcus.”
One of the non-descript grey wolves stepped forward. His body contorted, writhed in apparent agony. His bones cracked as the wolf howled. Soon the sound of the howl changed, as it acquired a gurgle and then a choke. Summer forced her stomach to stay strong. She would not give these men the satisfaction of making a sound.
Everything about the man’s shift was wrong, the little she had seen her mother do it had been beautiful, and even three years earlier when it had been forced on her during Tristan’s Alpha ceremony, it had seemed natural, everyone bathed in white light, as if they were celestial creatures.
Marcus stood naked before her. His head drooped, his dull, brown eyes lifeless as he stared at her. His greasy, unwashed blond hair fell onto his face. Sweat and grime covered his body. Worst of all, his penis was totally erect.
“Kendrick tells me that a wolf-shifter can only be impregnated by her mate.” Claudius rolled his eyes. “This seemed to be true with your sister. Didn’t the human doctors tell her she was infertile? Now two babies in three years. But I think that is the stuff of fairy tales. I can smell how fertile you are. Marcus, get the girl with child.”
Claudius stepped backwards to the other and crossed his arms across his chest, amusement on his face.
Summer shook, not with terror but with fury. “You’re a sick pervert.”
He raised one eyebrow. “I am many things.”
Marcus shuffled forward and Summer knew she was left with no choice but to shift. The other wolves would devour her, but at least she would die without being raped. She closed her eyes to call the shift.
A roar filled the room and Summer’s eyes flew open. A large grey and black wolf crashed into Marcus’ body. The force of the impact slammed both the wolf and Marcus into the wall behind them. Marcus screamed, but only for a moment, as the wolf tore his throat to pieces.
Finished, the wolf turned around. The remaining fourteen feral wolves growled at him and moved into offensive stances, ready to attack. Ten wolves tore through the living room door and pounced on the crazed grey wolves. Claudius shouted something, but Summer couldn’t make it out over all the noise. He ran towards the open doorway, five wolves retreating with him.
Summer’s eyes widened. No way would she let the man responsible for her parents’ murder out of the room. She leapt up and threw herself onto Claudius. He swung around, her head connected with his portly elbow, and she fell to the floor. Stars formed in her eyes but she didn’t stop her assault. On the floor, she grabbed his leg and held on tight.
If she shifted now, she would lose her hold on Claudius. No. She just needed to hold on, to keep him from leaving.
One of Claudius’ five attack wolves jumped on top of her, biting her arm hard. She screamed in pain as the wolf tried to pull the skin off of her body. She let go of Claudius, who took that opportunity to kick her in the head.
Amidst terrifying growls, the black and grey wolf suddenly circled close to her. He latched onto the neck of her attacker and dropped to the floor, gravity take them both to the ground. She grabbed her arm and it throbbed under fingers. Blood oozed from the wound letting Summer know how close the deranged wolf had been to achieving its goal. For one moment the black and grey wolf lifted its eyes to meet her gaze. She swallowed at the intensity she saw in them. Anger and hatred were there, that was for sure, but they weren’t directed at her. The emotion she saw momentarily visible in the wolf’s eyes was longing. She wanted to cry from the sheer intensity of it but then the wolf dropped his gaze to destroy the wolf that bit her. Fur and blood flew everywhere, coating the already damaged furniture.
Cullen. Her savior was Cullen.
Cullen. She looked up to meet his stare. His wolf eyes solid, strong brown—different from his human blue ones. She was safe. Her mind whirled back to three years before when she’d heard his voice downstairs from her bedroom. He’d argued with her mother, she hadn’t been able to make out his words, and then he’d gone. She’d heard nothing from him since.
Now he had returned.
Summer had a moment to register that Claudius escaped the room before nausea took over and she vomited all over herself. Her head spun, her pulse pounded in her ears. She couldn’t seem to stop the nausea.
She leaned over to wretch again. Strong arms pulled her hair back from her head and rubbed her back.
Cullen. Her wolf sighed. Shift now?
Summer shook her head; she was too sick to shift.
“It’s okay, Summer, I’ve got you. This is almost over.” Cullen’s voice sounded strained. She realized this was the first time he’d ever spoken to her personally. She looked around the room. The remainder of the wolves had either fled or were being destroyed by the pack wolves who had arrived with Cullen.
She vomited again, officially destroying her mother’s favorite Persian rug. It wasn’t okay. Nothing would ever be okay again.
Around her, the growls of wolves filled the room like a B-movie soundtrack and once again the scent of death filled her nose. Another wave of nausea hit her.
“Come on, let’s go.” Cullen picked her up like she was a baby and strode from the room. She saw her mother’s yellow walls covered in the death smell she knew should be impossible to see and yet she recognized it crawling all over the paint like worms. Her stomach was empty, but it churned violently. Dumbbells collided in her head over and over.
This time she blacked out from the pain.