Man and wolf. Sworn enemies in the battle for Askara. Can hate and betrayal ever lead to love?
Caleb Harken has spent six years wrongfully imprisoned for his father’s treachery. Tortured and reviled by the very wolf pack he should have been leading as Alpha, he is not surprised to learn he’s finally to meet his death at the hands of the human rebel leader, Taegan Callan.
Taegan gave up his dreams of a life-mate and a family after seeing too many humans butchered at the hands of the wolves—even if Caleb doesn’t seem to be the bloodthirsty savage he expects, and even if he starts to long for a different kind of future with the wolf.
Can Caleb become the Alpha he was always meant to be and lead his pack, or will he finally realize that winning his freedom means nothing when he has already lost his heart?
Caleb sat hunched over on a fallen log just by the track that led down to the barn they kept the horses in. Taegan could practically feel the misery in the hunched shoulders, the bowed head, the way he favored his left arm even though he didn’t have it in the sling anymore. His arms were bare. “Caleb?” he called out quietly, not wanting to startle him, but Caleb never moved even though Taegan knew he would have heard him.
He crossed in front of the log and sat down, putting both mugs on the ground and passing him the poncho. “It’s cold out here.” For a second, he didn’t think Caleb was going to take it, but lifting his head he reached out cautiously. Instead of passing it to him, Taegan bunched it up and carefully went to ease it down over Caleb’s head. Caleb recoiled sharply, and Taegan stilled his hands. “Let me help,” he said. “You’ll get cold.”
Caleb lifted his head, the brown eyes suddenly so dark. “And you care, why?”
“I don’t know,” he said wretchedly, then shook his head, the gesture a denial, as Caleb widened his eyes in response. He hadn’t meant to admit that.
“I think it better if I sleep in a different cave until you decide what to do with me,” Caleb muttered.
“No—” he bit off. Caleb was hunched inwards. He was incredible. Giving. He soothed so many bitter corners in Taegan’s soul. He wanted to keep him, but it was impossible. Silas had once told him that many years ago, wolves fell in love at first sight. But Taegan was a human and he didn’t understand this odd compulsion to be with someone he had known barely two weeks. Maybe it was just a good healthy dose of lust.
“I’m not going to apologize for Ralph and Adams. The guards,” Taegan added, then felt ridiculous because of course Caleb would know who he meant. “They were doing their job.”
Caleb didn’t reply. Didn’t move.
“But I was wrong.”
Caleb’s head came up quickly. The surprise written all over his face.
“You didn’t deserve that assumption from me, and I apologize.”
Caleb ducked his head.
Taegan passed him one of the mugs of tea and unwrapped the bread. “My mom says you haven’t eaten.”
“I’m not hungry,” came the whisper.
Taegan put his untouched tea back on the ground. He reached out slowly, hooking his finger under Caleb’s chin and lifting it, immediately drowning in the stormy brown eyes, dark and brittle with misery. He had done that, him. He leaned forward and Caleb leaned back, twisting his head away. The rejection stung in his gut.
“Please eat,” Taegan said, dropping his hand. Caleb had been doing so well and the last thing he needed was Taegan upsetting that.
But Caleb didn’t move, didn’t look up. “What are you going to do with me?”
He had treated Caleb abominably. Taegan paused and for the first time in two years did something that wouldn’t help their cause, but was the right thing to do. “You are free to go. Now. If you want to walk down that hillside, I won’t stop you.”
Caleb’s head shot up. “You’d let me go?”
Taegan swallowed the husky denial. “I wish with everything I am that you are not the Alpha heir and I am not the rebel leader.” He let that sink in. Caleb’s eyes still fixed on his. “Especially after last week.”
Caleb’s eyes dipped, and Taegan reached out and touched his arm. “It should still be wrapped. It’s very likely broken.”
“I-it doesn’t hurt.” Caleb’s gaze lifted and Taegan stared. He was drowning in the golden depths. He’d thought Caleb’s eyes were brown, but the center simmered with chocolate and grew lighter outward until the flecks of amber almost turned them copper. Long golden brown lashes framed them, and Taegan took small comfort that the dark shadows under them had gone.
“You don’t eat enough.” He said almost brusquely to cover what he wanted to say. What he wanted to do. “Please eat something.” The words were quiet but no less pleading.
Caleb stared at the offered bread. He took a breath. “I think I forgot how. If I wasn’t hungry it was one less pain.”
“For me.” Taegan knew he had no right to use those words. Caleb owed him nothing.
Caleb took the thickly buttered bread and inhaled. “It smells wonderful.”
Taegan nudged him gently. “It tastes even better.” Caleb took a bite and Taegan beamed. Such a small victory.
“When will you plan to get the kids?” Caleb asked after swallowing. He sipped his tea and took another bite.
“I have two team leaders that get back from Solonara tomorrow. I haven’t the numbers without them.” Caleb chewed and seemed to consider what Taegan said. “It would help if we had any idea what time of day this is planned for.”
“Noon,” Caleb said immediately.
“Of course,” Taegan agreed instantly. It was the time Aylin started to cover Sorin. He should have known. How was it possible they were talking when everything in him wanted Caleb’s lips for another purpose?
Caleb finished the bread. He watched Taegan intently as if waiting for something.
“I owe you another apology also.” He would have been blind to miss the flash of pain that darkened the brown pupils nearly to black or the hiss as his words connected. Caleb misunderstood. He didn’t regret one second of it and wasn’t apologizing for it. “I loved every second of the time I spent with you. How I found the strength to leave my bed that morning is beyond me.”
Caleb’s slow, heart-stopping smile was worth every word of his confession. “So why did you leave me?”
“Because I am taking advantage.”
“Because I can’t stay,” Caleb supplied flatly, answering his own question.
“So, will you leave?” Taegan didn’t want the answer. Should he mention Silas’s crazy bonding theory? He couldn’t let Caleb go if it would hurt him, but he couldn’t take back his offer either.
“I know I can’t stay forever, but I won’t leave until Neal and Rayne are safe. I still think I should be the diversion you need.”
Caleb was touching. While they had talked he had crept closer, but it wasn’t charged with the same emotion as the last time. This wasn’t sexual but all about warmth, compassion, and comfort. He knew Taegan was having difficulty retelling some of his worst moments, and he wanted to support him. It would be so good to have someone by his side, but Taegan had lost that right a long time ago. Caleb’s eyes softened as he listened. It seemed to come as easy to him as breathing, but Taegan knew it was dangerous. Caleb was dangerous because for the first time Taegan wasn’t thinking about his responsibilities to other people.
He was thinking of himself.
“Taegan?” It was Cy. “We have an injured messenger bird. I think you need to come. We should have got the message yesterday but it has a damaged wing.”
Caleb stood and took Taegan’s empty mug. “I have a story to read.” He smiled and Taegan watched him go.
The wolf that eventually won his heart would be a very lucky man.
Wrote her first book on a dare from her hubby three years ago. Loves writing about gorgeous boys loving each other the best, and especially with either a paranormal or a historical twist. Had a try at writing contemporary but failed spectacularly when it grew four legs and a tail.
Is an English northern lass but is currently serving twenty to life in Florida – unfortunately, she spends more time chained at her computer than on a beach.
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