Rayne's mission to find a mate has ran into a snag. Her best friend, Chloe has been kidnapped. They say trauma can bond people quickly but will it help increase the attraction between Rayne and Lincoln, a Veterinarian from a neighboring pack? You'll have to read to find out.
You're also going to find out more about the connection between River and Chloe in this installment. Could there be lingering feelings?
As far as Storm, Rayne is coming to respect the man for all he's done for her family, but respect is only one aspect of love. She can't seem to get past the muddy waters of their history together. Not to mention the tiny fact that he's dating her nemesis (we won't point out to her that little hiccup was her own doing).
Are you enjoying Rayne's Thunder? I know I'm loving these characters and really enjoying writing the story.
Here's a taste of part two...
I felt apprehension as I maneuvered my car up the winding driveway toward the home I grew up in. It had been a little over a month ago since I attended my father’s funeral here, discovered I had a year to choose a mate and marry, saved my best friend from an accidental overdose, disobeyed and disrespected my brother -- the new alpha, created a rift in the relationship between the Wyoming Pack and my own Colorado Pack, and found out the boy I’d always hated had grown into a delectably sexy man. Hotness was his middle name and he wore that like a badge of honor. Untouchable might as well have been his last name because that was what he was to me. And denial was my middle name if I believed the crap I was shoveling down my own throat at this moment.
All of that insanity happened in just the first few days I had been back. They say times of drama create explosive relationships. I was doing my best to make that a cold, hard truth. Truthfully, I was astonished that River was letting me come back home so soon, but I suppose it was easier to pair me off and get me married while I was in the same town as opposed to several states away.
Now that I was moving home, I had to wonder what other damage I was going to cause before things could get back to normal. Everything and everyone had changed drastically, and I was the one running to catch up. Thankfully, life was a marathon and not a sprint otherwise I would’ve already lost the race.
It was agreed that I needed to leave for a while to let the chaos I created settle and give my brother a chance to take control of the pack. So I went back to college to finish out the semester and transfer my credits to the local Colorado University. Two more semesters, and I’ll be ready to start medical school. As exciting as that was, driving home was like dousing the flame with water.
I spoke to my sister, Rhyme, a few times over the last month, and my best friend, Chloe, almost every day. I was worried about her. She seemed to be recovering nicely from the breakdown she had that almost cost her life, but Chloe was always good at putting on appearances, something we were all trained to do since the moment we were pups. But Chloe was human so the fact that she managed to maintain herself was extraordinary. But it was definitely not my strong point.
The one person that had no time to chat with me was my brother, River, the new alpha. I couldn’t blame him. I’d made quite a mess my last visit, but I intended to fix that mistake now. He had a hundred percent of my support. I was going to make sure he knew it. I just hoped he’d accept it.
I parked the car in front of the garage and hopped out of the vehicle. The satisfying crunch of the gravel beneath my sneakered feet reinforced I was home. I heard a ruckus out back. Many of the younger pack members were already out wrestling, preparing for the hunt tonight under the full moon. I had no idea how much I missed my pack until that moment.
The breeze carried the scent of pine and tree bark signaling the night was approaching. It always cooled down as Colorado summer evenings arrived. The wind picked up, whipping my golden-brown hair around my face as I pulled out a couple of suitcases from the trunk. I turned and ran smack into a brick wall. Hands went to steady me at the waist as I blew the wisps of hair out of my face so I could see who I hit.
“Geez, Storm, you’ve got to stop sneaking up on me like that.”
“I just wanted to see if you needed any help with your luggage.” His voice was like silk on my skin.
“No, I’m fine.” I needed to get away from him and his electric touch for so many obvious reasons.
“Don’t be ridiculous.” He grabbed my bags and started toward the house.
I sighed -- heavily, shut the trunk, and followed him into the house.
Chloe and Rhyme ran down the stairs. The girls were night and day. Chloe, brilliant with blonde hair and tanned skin, and Rhyme’s contrasting midnight black hair and pale skin. They embraced me in a bear hug as Storm took my luggage upstairs.
“I’m so glad you made it home in time for the hunt.” Rhyme cooed.
“And wait until you meet the hunk your brother is setting you up with.” Chloe grinned.
I pulled out of the hug and looked at my two greeters. “I just got here! I wasn’t expecting to be set up on a date tonight.”
“That’s too bad because I was really looking forward to meeting you.” His voice was strong and masculine. Not that I would expect anything less from a man my father and brother picked for me. I was suddenly nervous about turning around. I knew my hair and makeup were a mess from a day’s worth of traveling.
Before I left I told my brother to pick the man that would best support his leadership of the pack. It was my way of showing fealty to the new alpha. I really disrespected him and with the problems brewing between the Carters and our family, it was not a good thing to do. River chose this man. That meant I needed to make a good impression because I was going to do everything I could to make a good mating connection with him for my brother’s position as alpha and my family.
“Okay, well, I’ll go upstairs and change and meet you down here in a few…”
Chloe shook her head and spun me around to face one of the most handsome men I’d ever met -- and I’m a werewolf! Most of them are handsome. His eyes grabbed me first. They were a crystal blue, and looked like two twinkling gems in a face complemented by two deep, lickable dimples. His skin reminded me of toasted almonds and his hair was light brown with sun kissed highlights, just like mine.
He closed the distance between us and kissed both of my cheeks, my heart stuttered at the contact. Wow! I stumbled over my greeting. “It’s nice to meet you too.”
He smelled of spice, cinnamon and sugar. It reminded me of cinnamon rolls like Meriam used to bake us for breakfast in the morning. I couldn’t help but wonder if he tasted as good as he smelled. He was dressed in a pair of relaxed fit jeans and a cashmere sweater and looked like he’d just walked off the cover of GQ.
“I’m Lincoln Evans.”
“And where are you from, Mr. Evans?”
“Please, Lincoln, and I’m from the Arizona pack.”
I nodded. “Lincoln.” I pulled my hand from his warm palm. “I have to go upstairs, freshen up and change. Can I meet you out back?”
He clicked his heels together, reminding me of an officer in the military, and said, “I look forward to your return.”
Rhyme and Chloe walked with me up the marble staircase. “How’s River?”
“Super busy but he’ll join the hunt tonight.” Rhyme looked away nervously.
“He still hasn’t forgiven me has he?” I chewed my lower lip.
“Not entirely, but he will.” Rhyme patted me on the shoulder in a comforting, big sister way. It was an odd feeling. Ever since our father’s funeral, Rhyme and I have been trying to reconnect and build a sisterly relationship, something we’ve never really had thanks to the strained relationship she had with father in contrast to the good one I had with him because of the middle child and baby of the family dynamic.
“And he thinks this Lincoln is the best possible mate to help him keep his seat as alpha?” I asked, curious about how much she knew.
“He does, and Lincoln is a veterinarian.” She smiled excitedly.
I nodded. The jigsaw pieces were starting to click into place. “And I’m studying to be a doctor.”
“Together you’ll make a power couple and offer an added layer of security.” Rhyme seemed more enthusiastic about the situation than I was.
“It takes a village, I guess.” A doctor and a veterinarian in the same alpha family would only add strength.
“Not to mention, he’s totally drool worthy.” Chloe offered a predictable comment and wiped her lips for added emphasis.
Rhyme and I looked at her and giggled. “I love you.”
“What? I know,” she nodded sarcastically, “it’s hard to find an ugly wolf.” She stopped me at the top step, “but what I wouldn’t give to fall for and have one of them fall for me.”
“Be careful what you wish for, Chloe. Need we remind you what happened with you and Eddie Gates?” I warned.
Chloe shivered. “Nope, I don’t need any reminders of that nightmare.”
Chloe started dating Gates last year. She was human, but had been a part of the werewolf community since she was seven, when I brought her home and insisted she know about everything. Chloe didn’t have a very good family life so she became part of our family very quickly.
It was not unusual for shifters to take human mates, especially as our numbers continued to dwindle out over the years. Gates claimed Chloe and proceeded to beat her every chance he got. One night she fought back and killed the man. I was away at school and knew nothing about it. Thankfully, Rhyme and River protected Chloe. They burned the body and disposed of the ashes. No one could know that a human killed a werewolf. It would devastate the uneasy truce between both species.
Chloe was forced to cover it up. The pressure became too much for her and during my father’s funeral she overdosed on her pills and mixed medication with alcohol. It was a terrifying problem and one of the few things I did right my last stay at the compound.
Now, I needed to focus on my family and help River rebuild our pack. If that meant I was to entertain and possibly mate and marry a handsome veterinarian, then so be it.
Storm exited my bedroom and nodded at us. “Glad you’re back, Rayne.”
I looked at him and my heart raced. I wanted so badly to tell him how wrong I was about him all those years, to thank him for all the help he’s given my brother, to welcome him as part of the family, but words escaped me. His dark look stole my breath and crumbled my composure. “Thank you.” I entered my room and headed straight to the closet. It was time to do the Manchester name honor.
I changed into a green t-shirt that complemented my eyes and turned a shade or two crimson when I noted the stain on the left breast area of the dirty one I arrived in. I knew I looked a mess when I meet Lincoln. He was far more generous than I first believed for him to ignore my disheveled appearance. My golden-brown hair was windblown, and not in a good way. My face paler than normal. The half-moon dark circles under my eyes gave away the fact that I hadn’t slept much lately.
I finished getting dressed, arranged my long hair into a braid that fell to the middle of my back and headed down the stairs.
When I stepped outside on the soft, green grass, my bare feet sank into the earth, and I knew I was home. I wiggled my toes and breathed in the pine, lilac and crisp mountain air. The compound property was eleven hundred acres which backed up to the rocky mountain range. Trees dotted the landscape of meadows, grassland, fields of crops, and multiple streams all of which were wonderful playgrounds for the wolves during the monthly hunts.
“Should we be partners in tonight’s hunt?” Lincoln’s smooth voice ran over me like warm water from a showerhead as he came up behind me.
“Sure.” I grinned and nodded. “I think that is a wonderful idea.”
Storm and his irritating girlfriend, Angel, came up beside us, her arm nestled firmly in the crook of his. The sight made me want to gag. If she only knew he was with her because of his loyalty to River, and my own stupidity last month, she wouldn’t be preening like a peacock that won the best-in-show award. If I hadn’t acted like a spoiled brat with Brick on our first date and disrespected my brother, and if she hadn’t been there to witness my meltdown, Storm would not be in this position. The guilt I felt over that was as huge as Pike’s Peak in the distance.
“We will also be joining you during the hunt, as chaperones.” Storm informed us.
“But it’s a twosome affair, not a foursome.” Angel batted her pretty eyes and I threw up just a little bit in my mouth at the disgustingly obvious attempt to claim him as hers.
“We’d love to have you join us.” I told them. “Isn’t that right, Lincoln?”
“Of course.” Lincoln looked a little disappointed, but he recovered quickly.
“You must understand while courting happens, River insists there are chaperones on dates for both of his sisters.” Storm explained.
“But Rhyme is with Jax tonight, and she isn’t getting a chaperone,” Angel whined. I swear I saw her stamp her foot on the ground, but it happened so fast there was no time to laugh at her explosive temper tantrum.
“Rhyme and Jax will be joined by River.” Storm kept his words short and sweet, the only indication that he was upset was the tick in his jaw. Despite the fact that I hated him most of my life, he was my brother’s best friend and I knew him better than most because of it.
“I guess that means we’ll only have one team to beat.” I pointed out the positive.
“My brothers will be competing too.” Storm added.
“Yes, so we’ll need to stay close to your siblings.”
There was still the possibility that Storm’s brothers, Thorn and Bear, were going to challenge River for the alpha seat. We were all on pins and needles waiting for one side of the scale to tip and spill over. The Carters against the Manchesters, kind of like the Hatfields and McCoys. There could be only one alpha. The rest were betas in line to take the alpha position. River needed to win the hunt today to prove to those that had little faith in him as the leader that he was not only stronger than they imagined, but that he was the strongest.
Storm’s brothers had been vying for the alpha seat since the day my father died. Prior to that, David, the Carter patriarch, tried to steal the alpha title from our father until dad managed to sideline the guy. The rivalry hadn’t started there. It is rumored it started with our great-great grandparents. All over a girl, in fact. Our great-great grandfathers fought over who would mate and marry the alpha’s daughter, Elizabeth, my great-great grandmother. The Carters believe they lost the alpha position because Joseph Manchester stole Elizabeth’s heart, and they’ve hated our family ever since, vowing to steal the seat back someday.
Today was not only the monthly hunt, but the lead up to the official ceremony where River will take the alpha seat, which was scheduled for tomorrow. The one thing keeping the Carters at bay is that Storm has sided with River. Storm was the strongest of the three brothers, and would protect River with his life. If Thorn and Bear made a move, it would surely spell death for Storm, but a win for River. None of us wanted the bloodshed, and River was hoping for a peaceful resolution to the problem. I was not so optimistic. It was still hard for my mind to grasp that Storm chose River over his own family, but River believed it, and Storm had done nothing to indicate he had ulterior motives so I waited idly by to see where everyone fell. If it came down to it, I would protect my brother with my last breath.
“Hello, Colorado Wolf Pack!” River spoke loudly from atop the large boulder in our back yard. The crowd erupted in cheers. It was the first time I’d seen him or heard his voice since we last spoke before I went back to college.
It was a memory emblazoned in my mind. I could still hear the fire crackling in the mantle, and feel the anger that vibrated off of him in waves.
“I don’t want to leave,” my words barely above a whisper. “Please give me another chance to make this right.” My feet followed him to the doorway.
“I don’t know how you can right now.” His voice was so lost, so sad, full of so much disappointment.
“I’ll finish out this semester, and then come back and date whoever you think will be the best ally for the pack.” Storm had said it was time to grow up. Rhyme had made it clear I had responsibilities to the family and pack, and River and Chloe needed me. Maybe aligning myself with the best ally for the pack would be a good start.
“Come on, River. It’s a good deal and you know it.” I pleaded with his back because he refused to turn and look at me. So much like our father in that regard. My fingers ached to reach out to him, but something held me back, the wolf perhaps.
He stopped walking away. “Fine. We’ll try it and see how it goes.” Without a glance back, he left the room.
The memory still made me choke up. I only hoped things would get better now that I was home. I looked at Lincoln. He seemed like a stand-up guy. At least I hadn’t been saddled with someone who meant me or my family harm. At least, he had potential.
I turned my attention back to my brother. River stood proud, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, not his usual business suit flare. I supposed that was to endear himself to the pack members. Many had a hard time keeping clothes on, and most avoided suits with a passion. Even now, most were half dressed and ready to change. There was no greater feeling than running free as a wolf.
“We’ve faced many hardships these last few months, but today is the start of a new beginning. Allow the full moon to wash away the past, and the wolf to give you rebirth. Tonight we hunt and allow our animal to take control. Tomorrow, we rejoice in the new journey ahead of us as a united pack under your new alpha’s rule.”
The crowd roared their excitement. My brother always was a wordsmith, and today was no exception. I felt a burst of pride as I watched him claim his rightful place as the leader. My eyes flitted to Storm who was staring daggers at his brothers. Apprehension and a touch of fear ran up my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae.
I didn’t know much about Thorn and Bear. Growing up, I avoided them like the plague, but rumors of their devious acts often ran rampant in the pack. As I glanced between the three brothers, a memory flooded back to me. When we were younger, Storm came over beaten and bloodied. I was the one who answered the door.
The pre-teen version of Storm was gangly and awkward. The child version of me was small and spunky. “What do you want?” I asked as I hugged my dolly closer to my chest.
“Where is your father?”
“Out.” My younger self raised her chin defiantly.
“How about your brother?” Even then there was something dangerous in his green eyes. Something that scared me to the core, causing me to shiver with dread.
“I’ll go get him.”
“No need, little Raynie, I’m here.” River jumped down the last few steps of the marble staircase. He patted me on the head and said, “Go on upstairs. I’ll take care of our guest.”
My eyes bounced back and forth between both of the teen boys. They were only a few years older than me, but in that moment they seemed far more mature. I nodded slowly and headed toward the staircase. River pulled Storm into the foyer. Instead of running to the safety of my room, I snuck to the doorway and listened in on their conversation.
“My father is going to challenge yours at the hunt this weekend.”
“Are you sure?” River asked,, worry clear in his voice as he poured Storm some water.
“Yes, Thorn and Bear did this to me to keep my mouth shut. I couldn’t. It’s just not right.”
“Your brothers are bastards.” River clapped him on the back. “You know father will protect you from them. He’d claim you as one of his own if you gave him permission.”
“I can’t, they’re my family.” He took the water gratefully.
“Then you have to let me help you. I want you to start training with the enforcers.”
“I’m not big enough for that duty.”
“You will be when they’re done with you.”
“I don’t know, River.”
“I’m not going to let you get hurt anymore. I’ll get father’s approval, and you’ll start training tomorrow after school.” River drank his own glass of water as he sat down with Storm on the couch.
Storm lowered his head and sighed. “Okay, thank you.”
I had forgotten that memory. It was buried somewhere deep beneath my dislike for the man. From the very beginning, Storm had been supportive of my family despite those that reared him. I looked at the man out of my peripheral. He stood solid, ever the protector, watching, observing everything and everyone around us. I looked away when he turned toward me.
There were so many layers to this man I once hated. I couldn’t even remember really why I hated him anymore. It was becoming painfully obvious I wasted so many years disliking someone who didn’t deserve it. He deserved my friendship for his loyalty to this family.
I glanced over at Thorn and Bear. They both had sun-kissed skin, dark hair and hazel eyes. One wore a goatee and the other was clean shaven. Being that they were twins, it was a way to tell them apart, but I couldn’t say which brother was which. They were pumping up for the hunt, slamming their fists into each other’s arms. Neither one cared to listen to River. I wished River would just exile them from the pack, but he wasn’t that vindictive. He was not a coward and he would face them if the challenge was proposed. It was the way we were taught to live life. Grab it by the horns, and ride it until it was broken and you were in control. I was certain of one thing, Storm was right. If his brothers took control of the pack, it would be very bad indeed.
“So, without further ado, let us engage in the ritual of the hunt.” River’s voice broke me from my thoughts.
The people around me began to transform, morphing into wolves of varying sizes and colors. Instinct took over as my body engaged in the change. Hair covered my skin, my arms turned into legs, and hands to paws putting my head closer to the ground, my nose grew as my teeth lengthened. Smells, sounds, sights, and hearing increased. Instead of human. I was now a predator, deeply connected to nature. The urge to run, frolic and hunt took the driver’s seat in my mind. Human concerns seemed to fade away the longer I was the beast.
Lincoln’s black and grey wolf nudged my hindquarters and bounced back in an effort to get me engaged. I bit back playfully. We raced around Storm’s large silver wolf, then I made a beeline to River and Rhyme’s wolves. The smell of a buck scented the air and I stopped midstride. Lincoln’s wolf was forced to put on the brakes to keep from slamming into me.Rhyme and River’s black wolves turned their heads in the same direction. Everyone froze, and then the chase was on. Padded claws hit the ground at full stride as the pack bolted in the direction of the prey.
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If you haven't read part one, here is the link.
As I mentioned earlier, the rough draft to part three is almost ready for the editor. I'm also finishing up the rough draft for Remote Paranoia (PBI Case Files #5)... here's a sneak peek of the cover.
Fire Master Rising (book three of Winters Saga)
Faerie King's Guardian (book two of the Mystery Springs Series)
Dentist's Burial Ground (book three of Ghost Connection Series)
Deadly Market of Woes (book two of Demon Ascension Series)
And a few more this year...
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