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[107, 400 words, MF, paranormal romance, wolf shifters, Alpha heroine, geek hero, IR with secondary characters]
Dewi Bleacke is the Targhee wolf pack’s Head Enforcer. As little sister to the pack’s Alpha, her older brothers have demanded she has a froufrou formal wedding. Dewi’s only consolation is that it’ll be a double ceremony, with Beck and Nami saying their vows, too.
As they prepare to head to the pack’s compound in Idaho, Enforcer Joaquin Carlomarles shows up at Dewi’s front door. Dewi had assigned him to Mexico to get him out of her and Beck’s fur, but now he has the head of a drug cartel on his tail, looking for revenge.
With orders to bring Joaquin to Idaho, Dewi and the others set off. Then an unexpected mating throws yet another monkey wrench into the plans. That’s when danger finds the Targhee pack, forcing Ken to extremes he never dreamed for survival. Keeping himself and Nami alive in the Idaho wilderness might even require help from an unexpected source, as answers to old tragedies are delivered on… A Bleacke Wind.
Ken was enjoying a pleasant dream about his fiancée, Dewi. After showing Ken around her favorite secluded spot in the Targhee pack’s Idaho compound, they were now alone in the woods, lying on a blanket next to a serene, stream-fed pool, where he was busy making love to her.
He prepared to slowly slide inside her when he heard the annoying, repetitive quack of a duck call.
“What the hell?” he muttered.
That’s when his brain finally shook him awake as he heard Dewi answer her cell phone with a sleep-slurred voice.
“This better be good, Peyton,” she growled. “It’s three o’clock in the goddamned morning.”
Even awakened out of a deep slumber, she sounded like the Prime Alpha wolf shifter that she was.
Ken didn’t know about Dewi, but when the Targhee pack Alpha called, her older brother or not, Ken tended not to get snippy with him.
“What?” She sat up in bed, prompting Ken to sit up and turn on the bedside lamp on his side.
“What?” he asked.
She held up a staying hand, listening to whatever her brother was telling her.
Downstairs, the doorbell rang.
Apparently, that coincided with more bad news from Peyton. “What?” she yelled.
Now she sounded fully awake.
In less than six hours that Friday morning, they were slated to be on a flight to Spokane, Washington. From there, they would head to the Targhee pack’s Idaho compound by car.
That the pack Alpha was calling Dewi, the pack’s Head Enforcer and head of the extended pack council here in Florida, and that their doorbell was now ringing, couldn’t be a mere coincidence…or good news.
With her lupine reflexes, Dewi was already up and off the bed and heading for the bedroom door as she pulled on a robe while Ken was still trying to untangle himself from the bedsheets. She flung their bedroom door open and disappeared through it, heading downstairs.
By the time Ken reached the downstairs foyer, Beck and Badger had already arrived to back Dewi up. Nami, Beck’s mate and fiancée, hustled down the stairs behind Ken.
Ken wasn’t sure if Dewi was yelling at Peyton, or at the man now standing in their doorway.
“You’re farking kidding me, right?” she asked. “You realize we’re flying out to Spokane in a few hours, right?… Come on. This is low, even for you… Oh, for fuck’s sake, don’t just stand there. Get in here. You’re letting in bugs.” She stepped aside so the guy could walk in.
Beck, dressed only in a pair of boxers, flexed his considerable muscles and clenched his fists. “I’d rather toss him out,” he growled.
“Down, Beck,” Dewi ordered. “Peyton’s pulling rank.”
Now Ken spotted the motorcycle parked in their front yard, visible in the glow from the front porch lights.
“What the hell?” Beck asked. “What are you talking about?”
“Hold on,” Dewi said as she closed the front door behind the visitor.
Nami leaned in to whisper in Ken’s ear. “Who is that?”
“I have no clue,” Ken said, “but I have a feeling Beck’s not happy to see him, and neither is Dewi. That’s Peyton on the phone.”
“Hush,” Badger said over his shoulder to Ken and Nami. “And Beck, don’t make me Prime ye, lad,” he added in his thick Scottish brogue. “Show good form.”
“Good form?” Beck looked like Badger had just suggested he should go eat a porcupine. “Are you shitting me?”
Now that the guy had stepped all the way inside the foyer, Ken could tell the newcomer was obviously a wolf. An Alpha, if Ken had to guess. Slim and lithe, but in that deceptive way wolf shifters had, the stranger stood around five eleven, with brown eyes and shaggy brown hair, stubble shadowing his jowls.
He carried a battered backpack slung over one shoulder of his scuffed and worn leather bomber jacket, and he wore a black T-shirt, jeans, and motorcycle boots. He appeared to be maybe in his mid-twenties, but Ken knew better. If he had to guess, based on the lines around the wolf’s eyes, he’d bet the guy was forty or so.
Nami let out a snort of her own, her arms crossed over her ample chest as she looked the newcomer up and down with decidedly jaded side-eye. “Hey, sugar. The 1980s called. They want their look back.”
Dewi swiveled on her heel, grinned, and high-fived Beck’s mate. “Good one.”
That’s good, at least. The two of them are finally getting along.
Beck’s mate and Dewi had butted heads in the beginning. Nami, an older, gorgeous, voluptuous black woman who was probably two of Dewi in weight, couldn’t understand why Beck and Dewi had broken up to start with.
It wasn’t until they revealed to Nami the secret about the wolf shifters—and Dewi spearheaded the effort that rescued Nami’s younger sister, Malyah, from the clutches of their father and his nefarious plans—that the two women became close.
Now, Nami fell somewhere between older sister and adopted mom status as far as Dewi was concerned, even if the woman did conspire with Dewi’s brothers and sisters-in-law to get Dewi into a froufrou wedding dress.
“I wasn’t talking to you, Peyton,” Dewi said into the phone. “Fine, I’ll do it. He might have to go on a separate flight, th—okay, fine. We’ll Prime the damn ticket clerk and gate attendants if we have to. You owe me. I expect a full fricking report from you when I get there.”
She ended the call and glared at the stranger.
“How’d you get in here anyway?” Beck snarled at the guy. “The gate closed behind me last night.”
“I called Peyton when I reached the gate and he gave me the entry code.”
Dewi indicated Ken and Nami. “Joaquin Carlomarles, this is Ken Ethelbert and Nami Drexler.”
The stranger turned and finally studied Ken and Nami. Joaquin barely lifted his chin, but Ken knew they’d just been sniffed.
“Pleased to meet you. And congratulations to both of you,” Joaquin said to Dewi and Beck. He turned back to the two wolves. “Guess you’re both off the market now.”
Ken, a Tampa native, picked up a slight but unmistakeable Spanish accent in the man’s English. Barely perceptible, but noticeable to his ears.
Beck tried to step forward, practically bristling despite not being in wolf mode, but Dewi held out a staying arm.
“Don’t, Beck. Stop it. He’s an Enforcer.”
“He’s an annoyance.”
“He dated one of Beck’s little sisters,” Badger filled in before Ken or Nami could ask. “And it’s irrelevant,” he directed at Beck. “She was an adult who could date whom she damn well pleased.”
“It didn’t please me,” Beck said.
Nami snorted. “Ken, I don’t know about you, but I’m guessing we aren’t going back to sleep.” She turned. “Let’s go make coffee while they do their wolf stuff.”
As they made their way to the kitchen Nami leaned in close to Ken. “I think that boy is trouble,” she said in a low voice.
“I think you’re absolutely right.”
* * * *
Dewi crossed her arms over her chest and glared at her Enforcer…who should be covering his assigned territory and not standing in her entryway in Florida.
“Spill it,” she ordered.
Joaquin tried for an abashed smile. “So, heading to the pack compound for your weddings, eh? Guess my timing’s perfect.”
“Don’t start that shit with me, Joaquin. What the hell? Why are you here? You’re supposed to be in Mexico. That’s your territory.”
He ran a hand through his shaggy hair. Yes, Joaquin Carlomarles was a handsome wolf. She was mated, not blind.
But even before meeting Ken, Dewi hadn’t been attracted to Joaquin like that. He was too arrogant and cocky for her liking, despite being handsome and good at his job.
Unfortunately, he’d been attracted to her. Not pinged-on-her-as-his-mate attracted, but combined with Beck’s desire to castrate the wolf with his bare hands after the guy dated Beck’s little sister, sending the Colombian-born wolf to Mexico as an Enforcer seemed like the best idea at the time.
Joaquin’s parents, distant cousins of Dewi’s father, had come to the Targhee pack compound in Idaho when Joaquin was only four. The drug cartel violence in their country had been too much for them to take.
When Joaquin grew older, since he was fluent in Spanish and they needed another Enforcer in Mexico, Peyton had made the wise choice to put a few thousand miles of distance between Dewi, Beck, and Joaquin before the pack ended up short an Enforcer. Joaquin’s parents had eventually moved up to Vancouver, Canada, where they now ran a chain of coffeeshops.
“It’s a long story,” Joaquin said.
Badger let out a disgusted sigh. “Didn’t think it’d be a short one, ye showing up this time of night. Eh, mornin’.”
“Can I have some of that coffee I heard them talking about?” Joaquin asked. “I really need it. Then can we stick the bike in the garage?” He tried for a bashful look. “And I’d kill for a shower before we head to the airport. I’m kind of ripe.”
“How about I toss him in the fucking pool?” Beck groused.
Dewi held up a palm at Beck. “Dude, please don’t make me Prime you. I’m not any happier about this than you are. Peyton said our orders are to get him to the compound safely. Then he’s Peyton and Trent’s problem.”
Although, technically, as Head Enforcer, Joaquin was Dewi’s problem.
“Good,” Beck said, flexing his fists. “Because if he’s our problem, I’ll make sure he’s no one’s problem for long.”
“The short version,” Joaquin said as he turned and headed for the kitchen and ignored Beck’s jibe, “is that I sort of pissed off the head of a drug cartel in Mexico City.”
“Sort of?” the other three wolves echoed in unified disbelief as they followed him to the kitchen.
“Yeah. Kind of.” He set his backpack on the floor by the counter island and slid onto one of the stools.
“How’d ye manage that feat?” Badger asked.
“Well, seems Manuel Segura didn’t take too kindly to me killing his little brother.”
Dewi blinked. “You did what to who?”
“To be fair, the scumwad kidnapped, raped, and killed the daughter of a wolf. Felicia Escobar. I didn’t know who the asshole was before I took blood. Had I known who he was, heh, I would have made sure I took him out without witnesses or announcing to a room full of people what was going on first.”
Beck leaned against the counter. “How many witnesses, exactly, are we talking?”
“Um, I killed the guy at his daughter’s wedding. Ten minutes before the ceremony was scheduled to start.” He scratched at the stubble on his chin. “About sixty people, give or take.”
Dewi groaned, grabbing the counter for support at that news. “Oh, you stupid fuck.”
Joaquin’s voice turned growly. “Hey, the girl he murdered was only fifteen years old, okay? She wasn’t a shifter. Her mother is human. He fucking abducted her off the street and raped her, then strangled her and bragged about it to his scumbag friends. I’m the one who found her body and then had to break the news to her family. So I wasn’t exactly in a generous mood when I caught up with the fucker.”
Dewi didn’t dare look up from where she was still holding on to the counter, head down and staring at her feet. “Please tell me it was a clean, confirmed kill.”
“I smelled the fucker on her body,” Joaquin said. “I have no doubts it was him. Combined with him bragging about it, I’m satisfied proof was given.”
“Why was I not called about this?” She finally straightened and turned to him. “I am Head Enforcer. When blood’s taken, I’m supposed to be notified.”
“Because you and Peyton gave me a standing order, based on the logistics, to take blood if necessary if I had no doubts. That I didn’t have to wait to get a pack edict to extract blood revenge for one of ours when I was certain. Well, I was certain. Did I mention she was fifteen?”
“You weren’t certain enough to know who the hell he was, apparently.”
Joaquin let out a sigh. “What I didn’t know until after the fact was that the guy was mobbed up. Or carteled up. Or whatever it’s called. It was less than twelve hours from when the father called me in a panic after one of the girl’s friends told him she was grabbed, until I found her body, and then I tracked the bastard down. It happened after some bachelor party celebration the night before the wedding.”
“Fuck.” Dewi leaned against the counter. “Why didn’t you just go right to Idaho from Mexico?”
“I couldn’t. My car died and I had to get out of there overland. Too many people are in the Seguras’ pocket locally, including some of the police and military. I ended up going south to Colombia and catching a ride to the States on a cargo flight out of Bogotá. I have a family friend who works for FedEx out of there. And I still have a valid passport there. Flew into Miami a few hours ago. First flight I could get out of the country. I was maybe an hour ahead of the Seguras when we went wheels-up. It all went down four days ago. Eh, five now, I guess. I’ve been on the run ever since. First bit of sleep I got since taking blood was on the flight from Colombia.”
“And you’re sure they could ID you?”
“Um, yeah. I was pretty pissed off when I took him out. I know at least a few people there heard me say my name when I took blood.” He cocked his fingers like a gun and pointed. “One in the balls, two in the brain.”
Dewi rubbed at her forehead. “Is the family in Mexico safe? The girl’s parents?”
“Doubtful, but Ramirez was going to guard and relocate them as soon as he could after the funeral. They were obviously distraught. She was their oldest of three daughters.”
Ramirez was another Enforcer in the area. He covered the northern half of Mexico and Baja California. Most of the wolves in that region had moved out in the late 70s and early 80s when the economy tanked and drug crime soared. The Targhee pack had relocated most of them to the US or Canada, depending on their circumstances and family connections.
But there were still a few wolves in Central and South America, enough that they needed to keep an Enforcer presence in the region. They were actually descendants from the Targhee pack, originally from the US territories when the pack’s forefathers came over from Europe and what was now the UK.
Dewi pinched the bridge of her nose, a tension headache threatening. “So who is covering your region now that you’re not?”
“Peyton said he’s going to pull Alvarez from Rio for right now. Things have been quiet there since the World Cup ended.”
Nami had been listening quietly, but now she interrupted. “Wait. Rio de Janeiro? Brazil?”
“Yeah,” Dewi wearily said. “We’re worldwide. Well, not our pack. There are wolves worldwide. We’re the largest pack in the western hemisphere, third largest in the world. My grandfather allowed expansion territories. None of them have grown large enough, except here in Tampa, to require an expanded pack council. But we’ve got Enforcers scattered all over.”
Dewi worried if Beck’s voice grew any lower or growlier that he might pop a blood vessel in his forehead. “Why not just send you to Rio?” he said to Joaquin.
“The Segura Cartel has a lot of pull all over Central and South America,” Joaquin said. “Again, I didn’t realize who the asshat was at the time. I called Ramirez after I did it, when I went on the run so he knew what was going on, and that’s when he told me who the guy was. I was so focused on tracking the fucker right after I found her body, not letting the guy’s scent get away from me or losing him, that I didn’t look into his background before I took blood.”
“You’re thirty-nine, Joaquin,” Dewi said. “I shouldn’t have to tell you how to do your damn job, but you screwed up your damn job.”
“I know I did,” he said. “I’ll take whatever sanctions you and Peyton dish out.”
He let out a bone-weary sigh. “I haven’t had to deal with any shit like this in a while. I forgot how horrible it is. I’ve basically been little more than a glorified social director, keeping wolves in touch with one another, for the past few years. Or helping families out after natural disasters. The most serious enforcement issue I’ve had to deal with was settling a family quarrel between two brothers over a farking herd of cows, if you can believe it.”
Ken spoke up, his comment directed to Dewi. “Stupid question, but do you want me to fire up the laptop and see if I can get him a ticket on our flight?”
“Yeah,” Dewi said. “Thanks. His personal info is in the Enforcer personnel database.”
Ken took his mug of coffee and headed to the office.
Dewi stared at the wolf in front of her. Now that she was more awake and actually processing what was going on, she realized Joaquin did appear exhausted, weary. Mentally and physically. Probably emotionally, too. She’d had to deal with more than her fair share of horrible humans and wolves since being named Head Enforcer when she was only twelve.
It sucked to say she was used to it, because that was the cold, hard truth. It didn’t mean atrocities no longer shocked or impacted her, because they did.
She was apparently far better at compartmentalizing those horrors than this wolf was.
All this, on top of her wedding the following Saturday on the autumnal equinox, meant an even crazier week ahead of her when they reached Idaho.
As if reading Dewi’s mind, Nami spoke up. “If you think this is getting you out of your wedding, think again, kiddo.”
“Dammit,” Dewi muttered.