“I can’t do this.”
We’d taken three days to drive here and now I wanted to turn around and run back to the comfort of Alaska. I mean, Green Mountain itself wasn’t bad—hilltops all around, trees as far as I could see, fresh air away from the city. It had its charm.
But as I sat in Rhys’ truck and watched three grown men brawling in the middle of a dirt pit, I knew I didn’t have it in me to be an alpha.
“Stop fidgeting,” Rhys said. He reached over and squeezed my thigh.
“Where is everyone else? And what are they doing?” Just as I asked that, one of the men ripped off his flannel shirt and threw a beer can at another one’s head. The third man let out a laugh and then spit of the ground and wiggled his fingers, inviting the fight. In an instant, all three were on top of each other again, rolling around in the dirt and throwing punches at anything and everything they could reach. “Oh, my god,” I breathed.
“They’re just playing around,” Rhys said, although I heard the hesitation in his voice. “Come on.”
He jumped out of the truck and jogged around to open my door. The three grown men didn’t even notice us as they continued to pummel each other. Even when we walked toward them, hand in hand, they kept fighting. At one point, the ball of bodies rolled our way, and I was too slow to jump out of the path, so they slammed into my legs and knocked me to the ground.
“Hey!” Rhys shouted while he helped me up. “This is your fucking alpha!”
The men looked up at me, faces dirty and bloody, bodies shirtless and pants all ripped up. One of them belched. Another punched him in the neck. And the third scrambled to his feet. “Get up, assholes,” he said.
The two still on the ground didn’t move so I glared down at them and crossed my arms. “Do I really have to order you?”
They sighed, mumbled some curses under their breath, and finally stood. The belcher fake-punched the man who’d stood first right in the groin. And when he freaked out because he’d almost hit him, the gassy man laughed like a child.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
The three looked at each other and then back to me without answering.
“Is this seriously how it’s going to be?” I snapped. “Where’s the rest of the pack?”
“Gone,” the tallest one said. He had shaggy brown hair and a beard and was the one who’d thrown the beer can earlier.
“Who are you?” I asked him.
“What do you mean gone?”
“They left about a week ago.” Jack rubbed his beard and then dusted off his jeans. He said nothing as though he’d already given me the information I needed.
I turned to the belcher. “Who are you?”
“Where did everyone go, Colton?”
The blond behemoth of a man shook his head. “They left when the money ran out.”
I glanced at Rhys, panic in my eyes and needing his strength right now. “I don’t understand.”
The third man, a tall but scrappy wolf with brown hair cut like Rhys’, spoke up. “When you killed Cade, all hell broke loose here.”
“What do you mean? And who are you?” Jesus Christ, it was like pulling teeth to get information out of these assholes. Out of my new pack.
Jack started explaining. “That’s Sawyer and the Green Mountain pack might have had a shitty alpha, but we were making bank. Cade made sure of it. But his family liquidated everything after he died, and left the pack broke and homeless.”
“Homeless?” Rhys asked. “Why didn’t you call us?”
“Because what’s the point? What were you going to do about it? Cade used us to make his money and stashed it all away under his name. We got fucked. And now you’re fucked too.”
“What happened to the houses?” I asked.
“Gone. Bank owned now,” Jack said.
“So whose land is this?” Rhys asked.
“It was a little something the three of us purchased together a few years ago,” Sawyer jumped in. “It’s not much but it’s all we’ve got.”
I looked around the site. A trailer park basically. One tiny, flattened piece of land with three small trailers in various stages of decay. One of them had two pink flamingo lawn ornaments in the dirt patch out front and they were positioned so that they were humping each other. Another trailer had “Jack Off” spray-painted on the side with a big red slash through it. The third trailer looked like someone was taking care of it, until I saw the hole in the side where two kegs of beer had been shoved into the house in place of a window. Someone here drank a lot of beer.
And I’d just inherited this shit show.
“What about the Green Mountain pack?” I asked, that dark pit of doubt and fear snaking up my skin.
“You’re lookin’ at ‘em,” Colton said. “We’re the only ones left.”
“And I guess that makes you an alpha of three,” Sawyer said sarcastically before turning his glare to Rhys. “Or four.”
“Great,” I mumbled. “So where are we supposed to sleep?”
The three men laughed, and it wasn’t a pretty sound. “You’re on your own, sweetheart. Better get into town and start trailer shopping,” Colton teased.
I glanced at Rhys again, who reached out and squeezed my hand in solidarity.
“Well…can you at least help us unload some of our stuff?”
They started to walk away. My new pack started to fucking walk away when I asked for help. My wolf growled, stopping them in their tracks.
“Look, lady,” Jack said. “There ain’t no reason to unpack your shit until you have a place to put it. Go to Tommy’s Trailers in town, he’ll get you hooked up.” And with that, they disappeared into their own homes.
“What the fuck was that?” I asked.
“Bright side?” Rhys said, wrapping me in his arms. “They aren’t drug addicts or adrenaline junkies. You’re already starting off better than I did.”
Huffing my annoyance, I tried to wiggle free. “Really? You think this,” I waved my hand at the pitiful Green Mountain pack, “is better?”
Rhys kissed my head. “Much.”
“Sometimes I hate you,” I teased.
“You’re going to make this great. I know it.”
“I don’t have money to buy a trailer,” I sighed.
Looking up at my mate, I lifted my brow. “You do?”
“Not important. We need a home. Why don’t we go into town and see what we can finagle?”
I giggled. “Did you just say finagle?”
“It’s a funny word.”
Rhys turned me around in his arms so I was facing him. “Well, if I can make you laugh like that, I will say it more often.”
I lifted my chin and welcomed his kiss. The drive had been exhausting. This pack was exhausting. The whole damn situation was exhausting. But I had Rhys and with Rhys by my side, I could do anything. His tongue slipped into my mouth and in no time at all, our make out session turned hot and heavy.
And then the beer can hit Rhys in the head.
“Get a room!” Colton called out.
“Get a trailer!” Jack said.
“Everyone shut the fuck up!” Sawyer yelled from somewhere behind the humping flamingos.
I shook my head and let out a deep breath. “I can’t do this.”
Rhys pulled me over to his truck and helped me inside. “You can and you will. These guys need someone strong like you in their lives.”
“How do you know?”
“Because they’re lost. Look at them. They stayed. For a reason.”
“They probably can’t afford to go anywhere else.”
Rhys shook his head. “No, I think it’s more than that.”
“Since when did you become the perpetual optimist?” I teased.
He tapped my nose and started to close the door. “Since the moment I met you.”
As he walked around the front of the truck, I wondered if he meant our recent meeting or our entire childhood together. I loved Rhys Murray with all my heart, and I couldn’t imagine facing this without him by my side. I wasn’t ready to lead a pack of unruly men. That part was pretty clear when they all walked away from me. I’d have to find a way to make it work, and knowing I had Rhys standing behind me, made it that much more possible.
“You ready to go find a home?” he asked as he jumped in the truck.
I turned and smiled. “I am.”
I was ready. I would have a home with Rhys by my side and the support of my pack. If I could dream it, it would happen. And when I reached across the seat and grabbed my mate’s hand, I knew it would all work out in the end.
Ashlee Sinn fancies all creatures of the paranormal persuasion, especially those who like to bite. Her steamy romances tend to feature swoon-worthy heroes and kick-ass heroines. Whether it's vampires, shifters, or demons, the women who keep them in line have a special place in her heart. And in her chaotic head.
All of Ashlee’s books take place in the same world with overlapping characters. Find the suggested reading order on her website!
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”