This is an excerpt from Bleacke Spirit (Bleacke Shifters 4), writing as Lesli Richardson.
Honestly, Dewi preferred fighting the Segura drug cartel to having a frou-frou wedding. But she’s survived both with her sanity intact.
That’s due in no small part to Ken and Nami accidentally finding her grandfather, who everyone believed was dead for nearly fifty years. In addition to serving as the Targhee Pack’s Head Enforcer, and head of the expanded Pack Council, Dewi’s next challenging mission is trying to teach Duncan about safely navigating a whole new world.
Like texting. And Facebook.
And of course life is never easy for Dewi, Ken, Badger, Beck, Nami, and the rest of their extended family. So when Badger’s old friend comes asking for the Targhee Pack’s help, they can’t turn him away.
Even if it brings a new and fuzzy foe into their lives when they’re asked to help his loved one stay…incorgnito.
Who knew cute could be so deadly?
“So where is the book?”
Dewi looked up from her laptop to where her grandfather sat in one of the chairs in front of her desk. “What book?”
“The book everyone keeps talking about. I looked in iBooks, but it’s not there.” Duncan frowned at the phone in his hand. “And I don’t see a face, either. Does it take a picture to recognize me?” He turned the phone over and studied the back side of it.
The only reason Dewi didn’t roll her eyes at her grandfather was because he was doing a damn good job adapting to what passed for a normal life in their pack after literally having spent the past forty-seven years roaming the wilds of Idaho as a shifted wolf. They’d returned from Idaho nearly three weeks ago, and Dewi hoped Duncan never wanted to leave them again.
That wasn’t for completely unselfish reasons, either. For the first time in her life, between being married to Ken, being “adopted” as a little sister by Nami, and having Duncan back, she felt…normal.
“No, Da. That’s called ‘Facebook,’ and it’s an app.”
He scowled as he looked at her. “A what?”
“An app. Short for application. It’s a program. A…” She sighed and motioned for him to hand over the phone.
Fortunately, Gillian had bought Duncan an iPhone after Ken suggested it’d probably be easier for him to use. The old wolf had quickly grokked the phone and camera parts of it, but was still struggling to master some of the other things it could do.
She unlocked the phone and swiped to another screen. “Right here.” She pointed to the app’s icon. “That F? That’s for Facebook.” She tapped it, then swiped through to her profile. Peyton’s mate, Gillian, helped run the pack’s legal side of things, including securing and building new IDs for people when they needed them.
As part of creating a new identity for Duncan Lister, Gillian had even created him social media accounts, and, of course, added Dewi and other immediate family and pack members.
“See?” she pointed. “There’s me. But I don’t want you posting anything on Facebook until Ken sits down with you again tonight to show you.”
“Because there are all sorts of privacy issues. He needs to teach you all the settings. And you can’t talk about wolf things on there, obviously. We refer to the pack as ‘family’ or ‘extended family.’ Or the ‘family business.’ Stuff like that. This is an entirely new world than you grew up in, Da. By being on Facebook, people you don’t know and who live on the other side of the world literally can connect with you.”
Dewi returned the phone to him. He loved texting, and had taken to that immediately. And e-mail. Both features fascinated him. He’d also learned how to use the browser, and was quickly trying to catch up on some of the major historical events he’d totally missed.
Still, they were trying to keep him off social media right now, because Goddess knew that could be complicated enough, even for people who hadn’t been living in the woods for almost five decades.
But he nodded at her warning. “Ah, I see. That makes sense.” That was something else—he wasn’t resisting them about anything. Now that they’d returned to Florida and he was settling in, he was soaking up everything he could about this new-to-him world.
Didn’t hurt his old friend, Badger, lived with Dewi and Ken. So at least it wasn’t like he was among total strangers. Duncan and Badger had known each other well over a hundred years before Duncan’s disappearance, since before coming to the New World from Scotland. But while Badger hadn’t bothered trying to change his Scottish burr, Duncan’s smoother voice bore only hints of it, along with a mostly generic Midwestern accent his years in the wilderness hadn’t chiseled away, either.
Malyah appeared in the office doorway. “Dewi, Sis called. Again. To remind us not to be late to dinner tonight.”
“Again.” Dewi smirked. “It’s like she thinks we’ll forget or something.”
“Right?” Malyah crossed her arms over her chest and smiled at Duncan. “She said Gillian gave her a few family recipes, but wouldn’t give me deets.”
Duncan lifted his head and smiled at her, a twinkle in his eyes. “Because she figured I’d Prime you to get it out of you.”
“I’d imagine so.” She walked in and draped her arms around his shoulders from behind. “If you haven’t guessed already, Da, Sis loves to cook for family.”
“I love Nami’s cooking. And yours.” He affectionately nuzzled his head against hers, a typical wolf gesture.
Dewi smiled as she watched the two of them together. She wasn’t the only one who’d grown up feeling the aching void of missing family. Nami and her siblings had quickly adopted Duncan as a grandfather, too. It didn’t matter to Dewi or anyone else in their pack that the Drexler siblings were black—they were family. Pack. That was all that mattered.
It wasn’t that Dewi grew up feeling like her brothers didn’t love her, but they were both much older than her. Considering they had to run the pack after their parents’ murders, leaving Badger and Beck to protect and raise her…
This is nice. Watching them together, it settled Dewi’s soul in ways she hadn’t fully realized were unsettled before Nami, Malyah, Da’von, Lu’ana, Reggie—and, of course, little Bebe—became a permanent part of their lives.
It also terrified Dewi, because how was it that this perfection could come so…easily?
“Are Badger and Joaquin still working with Ken?” Dewi asked. She knew Malyah had just returned from the woods, where Badger and Joaquin were conducting Ken’s training today. Beck was at home with Nami, preparing for their weekly Sunday dinner tonight, and Martin had just finished moving into his new house. Malyah and Joaquin would live at Dewi’s, for now, with her, Ken, Badger, and Duncan, until they got their own place.
So far, Nami had nixed every house Malyah had liked, coming up with a variety of reasons the houses wouldn’t work for the younger couple. Dewi suspected Nami felt more at ease having Joaquin and her little sister living at Dewi’s, where there were three Prime Alpha wolves in residence, in addition to Joaquin being an Alpha.
Malyah smiled. “Yes. And yes, Ken’s got some bruises.”
Dewi choked back the growl threatening to rumble from her, even making Duncan focus on her with an arched eyebrow.
Badger—and Ken—had recommended Dewi not join them for their training practice today. Ken was liable to end up with some bumps and bruises from working on hand-to-hand combat basics, and they were afraid Prime Dewi wouldn’t be able to stop herself from stepping in to protect Ken.
Which would totally defeat the purpose of teaching him how to better take care of himself.
She understood it, but it didn’t mean she liked it, or that she still wouldn’t growl over any bruises she found on him later when they were in bed together.
The other obvious reason someone else needed to work with Ken was that Dewi had tried to work with him and found herself going too easy on him. Even Ken had said that.
“Do you need me to Prime you?” Duncan asked Dewi, not quite totally joking, either.
“No,” Dewi grumbled. “I’ll be fine.” She sat back in her chair and closed her laptop. “Although, now I totally get why Beck freaks the frak out over Nami every time she so much as sneezes.”
“You know Ken needs to learn this,” Duncan gently said. “He got damned lucky that Endquist didn’t kill him that day. Likely only because you are such a strong Prime. Granted, Ken kept the two of them alive in Idaho, but had Segura’s men caught up with them before I did…”
He didn’t have to finish that statement, because it was currently one of several nightmares that plagued Dewi’s sleep.
“I know,” Dewi said. “At least his marksmanship has greatly improved.”
Actually, he was getting damned good with a bow and arrow. With a gun, he wasn’t going to win any Olympic gold medals for his shooting, but he could likely hold his own, if necessary.
“He’s not always going to have a gun with him,” Duncan said. “Or one of us. I have not a single doubt that, if he’s properly trained, he will be every bit as effective as many wolves, when it comes to combat.”
“I don’t want him to have to need it, though.”
“No one does, Dewi.”
“I think Beck and Joaquin are gonna swap teaching me and Nami combat,” Malyah said. She wore a teasing smile. “If it means anything, Dewi, I think our men are feeling like you’re feeling.”
They heard the back sliders to the lanai open. “You get ‘im inside,” they heard Badger say. “I’ll go Prime Little Miss—”
Dewi was already up and moving, and didn’t even see Duncan reach out to catch her arm with his left hand.
“No,” he said, full Prime freezing her in her tracks. “Badger,” he called out, staring up at her from where he still sat in the chair with Malyah hugging him. “I’ve got her. We’re in the office.”
“Bloody well hold ‘er there, Duncan. He’s fine.”
Fear bordering on panic flared through her. “What’s wrong? What happened?”
“I’m fine, Dewi,” Ken called back. “Just twisted my ankle.”
She wasn’t even aware the growl had rolled from her when another word from her grandfather, a Prime order, silenced her.
Malyah released Duncan and headed out to see what was going on, but then Badger appeared in the office doorway.
The old wolf chuckled. “Heh. Duncan, did I mention how glad I am ye came back?”
Duncan didn’t release Dewi as he stood, slipping the phone into his back pocket. “Me, too. What happened?”
“I’m fine!” Ken called out from what sounded like the living room. “Don’t go eating anyone, hon.”
“Let…me…go,” Dewi growled.
Suddenly, Duncan was in her face, staring down at her, lips peeled back and baring teeth as his grip tightened on her arm. “Don’t you dare think you’re going to Prime me, sweetheart,” he snarled.
Dewi felt the fight flee her body. This wasn’t a feeling she was used to. Badger was a strong Prime, but not much stronger than her. Even Peyton was barely stronger than her.
He was like all of them put together, and then some.
By a lot.
She resorted to something unfamiliar to her—begging. “Please let me go to him!”
“Don’t you dare lay a hand on Joaquin,” Duncan ordered.
He released her, and she raced out of the office and through the house to the living room, where Joaquin was helping Ken down onto the couch. “What happened? What’d you do to him?”
“He didn’t do anything to me, Dewi,” Ken said. “I did it to myself.”
Ken pointed at his left ankle while Joaquin quickly backed out of the way. “I tripped on the way back to the house. I wasn’t looking where I was going and stumbled over a tree root. Seriously, I’m okay. I just twisted it.”
Dewi didn’t miss how Malyah had joined them and eased herself between Dewi and Joaquin.
“Oh, for crying out loud, I’m not going to attack anyone.” Dewi carefully started unlacing Ken’s left sneaker. “Give me a little credit, please?”
“Well, I’da handled it the same way were it Nami we half-carried back in here,” Badger said. “Would’a had Duncan Prime him, too.”
Ken’s ankle was already swelling. “We should get some ice on that, or something,” she said.
“I’ll get it,” Joaquin volunteered. He headed out, with Malyah quickly following.
“I already called the doctor,” Badger said. “He said to keep an eye on it, keep weight off it, and if it looks horrible tomorrow, to call him. But given how quickly Ken healed before, he said it wouldn’t surprise him if he’s nearly normal by morning.”
“Well, guess we’re not going to dinner tonight,” Dewi said.
“I’m not missing dinner,” Ken told her. “We’ve got those crutches from before, out in the garage. Just help me up and down the stairs, so I can take a shower before we go.”
“Badger just said the doctor said to stay off it.”
“Eh, well,” Badger said, “he did say Ken could use crutches, if he felt like it. Just keep weight off his ankle. Not restrict him to bed or anythin’.”
* * * *
If it wasn’t for the fact Ken could feel how frantic Dewi had felt just moments ago, he would have outright laughed at her now.
“Sweetheart, I’m fine,” he insisted. “It was just a stupid accident. Considering how Badger and Joaquin put me through the wringer, it’s kind of ironic that a damn pine tree nearly took me out without even trying.”
Joaquin returned with the ice pack. “Here you go.”
“Thanks,” Dewi said, obviously forcing herself not to snatch it from him, if the sounds of her mental mutterings were any indication. “Hey,” she said. Joaquin turned back to her. “Thank you,” she said again, but gentler. “I mean it. Sorry I got scary.”
Ken let out a sigh of relief.
Joaquin finally smiled. “It’s all right. Hey, he did really good at practice. He almost took me down.”
Ken chuckled. “I think you’re being too kind, dude.”
“Nah. You’re improving with every lesson. I’ll go look for the crutches. Garage, you said?”
“Yeah, thanks.” Ken liked Joaquin. The wolf had grown on him, especially once Ken saw how the fierce Alpha Enforcer wolf turned into a puppy around Malyah.
Right now, Ken felt more stupid than anything, that he’d turned to say something to Joaquin and then face-planted right in the dirt.
Worse, he’d actually felt fairly good after the training session. Mentally, not physically. Physically, he felt like he’d been run through a damn blender.
But mentally, he thought maybe he really was starting to get the hang of stuff and not just being humored by the other men.
That was another reason he preferred Badger and the others work with him instead of Dewi. She would not only go easy on him, but fib to him and tell him how great he was doing, even if he did something like…
Well, like trip over his own two feet, or even a tree stump.
Right now, a low, worried, nervous mutter was rumbling through her mind. Because of their mate bond, he could clearly hear her.
He reached out to touch her hand. “Dewi, I’m okay.”
“I should have been there.”
“To save me from the tree? Honey, let me have my pride. I’m okay.”
He got it. After what he and Nami survived in Idaho, he’d probably be pretty damn nervous, too, if their roles were reversed.
Badger patted Dewi on the shoulder. “He’ll be fine in a few days, Dewi. Lass, ye canna fash yerself about ev’ry lil bump or bruise he gets.”
She shot Badger a dark glare, which only made the gnarled old shifter chuckle. Behind him, Duncan stood with his arms crossed over his chest and wearing an amused smirk.
The others finally filed out of the living room. Once it was just the two of them, Ken made Dewi focus on him. “You can’t do this.”
“Do what?” She was busy rearranging the ice pack on his ankle.
For the twentieth time.
“Worry about me like this. It’s not healthy for you.”
She went still and quiet. Even the mental muttering silenced. “I can’t lose you,” she finally whispered. “I grew up thinking Da killed himself, even though no one said so around me. And I was so lonely without Mom and Dad. Sometimes, I’d get really angry and wonder how he could be so selfish to kill himself when the rest of us needed him. Then, when we were looking for you and Nami… Well, I realized how I didn’t want to live if something happened to you.”
She finally looked at him, tears welling in her gorgeous mocha-colored eyes. “I realized once we found you, and him, how I never really understood how much pain he was in before. And I felt so damned…guilty for thinking that.”
He sat up and cupped her face in his hands. “Dewi, believe it or not, I’ve had worse than this in my life, before I met you. Dave used to beat me up a lot. I’ll go through this, and more, if it means I’m going to be able to take better care of myself and be around longer for you.”
He pulled her in for a sweet kiss. “Now, how about you help me hobble upstairs for a shower?”
She rested her forehead against his. “I love you so much.”
Ken didn’t take for granted that he was pretty much the only person allowed to see her vulnerable side. Maybe not even Badger or Beck had ever seen her like this, raw and exposed.
“I love you, too, baby.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Now, let’s get me upstairs, because the only person who scares me more than you is Nami, and I don’t want to be late for dinner.”
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