BUY ON AUDIBLE:
Cormac Jacobs was born to lead …
Moving the pack and building a new life for them is proving harder than expected for the mysterious Alpha of the Midnight wolves. Life has rapidly become a case of survival of the fittest between them and the Hunters who threaten their safety.
After a life inside the Hunter Sect, the female he captured is confused and conflicted about the Alpha’s motives. But Cormac needs answers and gaining her trust will take time and patience he doesn’t have.
The Midnight Pack’s future is in peril as blood is shed and lives are destroyed.
Is this the end for the Midnight Pack, or will their Alpha be able to protect his own?
Cormac looked over the top of his laptop and waved the Wolf Shifter into the room. “Is the female causing problems again?”
“No.” Asher stepped into the room and closed the door behind him. “But the town sheriff just showed up and asked to speak to you.”
“Well, isn’t that coincidental,” Cormac said dryly. He rose to his feet and walked around the desk. “Can you make sure my bedroom door is secure? I’d rather not have the female appearing in the hallway while I’m speaking to the man who may well be her uncle. That wouldn’t look good, at all.”
Asher snorted. “Part of me would like to witness that conversation.”
Cormac shrugged. “The day is young and the last couple of months have taught us that anything is possible in this town.” He walked to the door. “Where is he?”
“I left him outside. Jaden is keeping him occupied.”
“Then let’s go out there and greet our unexpected visitor.” Cormac exited the study, Asher close on his heels and they walked toward the front of the house.
Cormac could hear Jaden’s deep voice talking about the surrounding forest and how peaceful the area was compared with downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s responses were abrupt and short, making it clear he wasn’t interested in what Jaden had to say. Cormac stopped just inside the main door and examined the man standing beyond it, sifting through the things he’d heard about him.
Shaun had been told the sheriff was Sam Cooper’s uncle, which made him Jeremiah Cooper’s brother. If Damien had been telling the truth about the female being Jeremiah Cooper’s daughter —and Cormac saw no reason to believe he had lied about it—that meant he was their captive female’s uncle as well.
Was he also a Hunter?
Surely he would be aware of his family’s activities? It could even be the reason behind his career choice.
Cormac took a deep breath, inhaling the scents of everything around him. Jaden seemed unconcerned, content in the knowledge his Alpha was near. Asher was curious, wondering why the sheriff was there. And then there was the sheriff himself—he was uneasy, nervous. Cormac could see the sheen of sweat on the man’s upper lip, smell his body odour beneath the scented deodorant he’d sprayed hours earlier.
He let his foot scrape purposely against the wood of the deck as he walked outside and watched Jaden and the sheriff turn toward him. He heard Asher retreat back inside, to check on the girl like he had asked.
“Sheriff,” Cormac greeted the man.
“You must be Cormac Jacobs.” The sheriff started forward, one hand held out in greeting.
Cormac looked at it and slowly lifted his own arm, clasping the sheriff’s hand in his. He masked a smile at the way the other male tried to hide a wince when he squeezed just a little too hard.
“What brings you out here, Sheriff?”
“A couple of things. I thought I’d come by and introduce myself, see if you needed anything and check how you’re settling in.”
“Greene Valley has been very welcoming,” Cormac replied.
“Yes.” The sheriff paused, and his eyes shifted to just behind Cormac’s shoulder.
Cormac didn’t move. He knew Gemma had appeared in the doorway, could smell her scent as she moved closer.
“Ms. Duncan.” The sheriff raised his voice in greeting, and Cormac heard the soft tread of her shoe as Gemma reluctantly descended the steps to greet him. “I’d heard talk you and your sister were spending a lot of time up here.”
Cormac’s head tilted slightly at the tone in the sheriff’s voice when he referenced Cassie.
Was that because she had been dating his nephew, or was something else at play here?
“We do,” Gemma’s reply sounded relaxed, but Cormac knew better. She came to a stop beside him. “Deacon’s driving me and Cassie into town to finish packing up the house,” she told him.
Cormac inclined his head, his eyes never leaving the sheriff.
“I suppose that’s one way of getting your childhood home back,” the law-enforcement officer remarked.
Cormac felt Gemma stiffen beside him. Reaching out, he laid a hand on her arm.
~Don’t respond,~ he sent at her, and she threw him a startled look before quickly masking it.
“We’ll be back in a couple of hours,” she said instead, gave the sheriff a nod and left the two of them alone.
“Were you insinuating Gemma is only interested in my brother because she wants her house back?” he asked the sheriff.
“Of course not.” Cormac could smell the insincerity in his voice. “But townsfolk talk, and everyone thinks things are moving a little too fast between those two girls and your brothers.”
“Thankfully, it’s none of the townsfolk’s business what two consenting adults are doing … is it?” Cormac looked at his watch. “Is there anything else I can do for you? I have a phone conference in a few minutes and can’t miss it.”
The sheriff’s spine stiffened, and Cormac waited.
Here comes the real reason he’s here.
“Sadly, there is something else,” he began. “A girl has gone missing.” He patted his pockets, made a show of finding something, and drew out a small battered photograph. He unfolded it and handed it to Cormac. “My brother’s girl. She was last seen almost a week ago.”
Interesting how he didn’t refer to her as his niece, Cormac thought.
“A week and you’re only looking for her now?” He glanced down at the photograph, already knowing who it would be, yet was still surprised by the heart-shaped face staring back up at him.
So that’s what she looked like when she wasn’t covered in filth.
“I don’t want to sound uncaring but …” The sheriff took a deep breath. “She’s always been a bit of a wild child.”
“Really?” Cormac scanned the picture again. It looked like an organised photoshoot, the type Humans used for social media profile pictures or as part of a portfolio. “She doesn’t look like a child.”
“She’s twenty-one. She has a habit of sneaking away with local boys, but usually returns after a day or two. When she didn’t, my brother asked me to look out for her.”
Cormac nodded without looking up. The girl in the photograph stared back at him, the set of her mouth suggesting she wasn’t happy about having her picture taken. Her dark eyes seemed filled with untold secrets. With a sigh, he handed the photo back to the sheriff.
“I’m sorry. I haven’t seen her.”
“It was a long shot,” the sheriff shrugged, aiming for a casualness his scent told Cormac he wasn’t feeling. Stuffing the photograph back into his pocket, his hand reappeared holding a small cylindrical object. He tapped the top and Cormac heard a faint click.
What was that?
He angled his gaze down, and the sheriff chuckled. “I’m sorry, it’s a new bad habit. It’s like the clicker on a pen top. I quit smoking, so it keeps my fingers busy.” He pressed it again with his thumb.
Click … click … click.
Cormac hid a frown. He could smell tobacco on the sheriff’s clothing, see the nicotine stains on his fingers. “If we’re done here? I’m sorry I couldn’t help you with the girl. If you’d like to leave a copy of the photo, I can ask the rest of my family if they’ve seen her and let you know if I hear anything worth sharing.”
The sheriff nodded and reached back into a pocket, pulling out a creased photocopy of the girl’s image. “I’d appreciate that. My number is on the back.”
With another press of the clicker in his hand, he ambled back to his cruiser.
Cormac watched, arms folded across his chest, paper held loosely between his fingertips, until the sheriff reached his car and disappeared down the drive. It hadn’t escaped his notice that the sheriff hadn’t given him the girl’s name.
Cormac had barely set foot back inside his house when Asher demanded his attention again.
“Chase needs you in your room,” Asher told him as he trotted down the stairs with Roxie close on his heels. “When I went up to check the door, I heard a noise, so I went inside. I found the girl on the floor. She seemed to be having a fit.”
“A fit?” Cormac repeated in surprise. “She was fine when I last saw her. Scrawny, dirty, but healthy enough to be angry at me.”
“Well, she’s not now. I called Roxie and sent her for Chase.”
Cormac strode up the stairs to his room and threw open the door. He was greeted by the sight of the Pack’s doctor pinning the girl’s wrists to the floor with one hand, while he tried to keep her still long enough to sedate her with the other.
The girl herself was arching up off the floor, her spine so bent Cormac was sure it was going to snap. Her head shook from side to side, and he caught sight of small white teeth biting into her bottom lip deep enough to draw blood. Her eyes, filled with pain, caught and held his briefly. His wolf stirred restless inside his mind, and then the faintest whisper came to him.
The reaction from his wolf was immediate. Its presence threw itself against the confines of his mind with a snarl, demanding Cormac take heed of the plea. His eyes zeroed in on the needle hovering above the vein throbbing in the girl’s throat.
“Chase, wait,” he demanded quietly, causing the other man to freeze and glance back at his Alpha. “I don’t think it’s a fit.”
He moved closer and lowered himself to his knees on the opposite side from Chase. Reaching out, Cormac gripped the girl’s face between strong fingers and her thrashing seemed to ease a little.
“Concentrate on me, Little Wolf,” he coaxed, letting a trickle of Alpha power thread through his voice.
Her eyelashes fluttered and her lids lifted, showing him pupils so large they had swallowed most of the dark colour of her irises.
“Good girl. Look at me.” Another pulse of power and she whimpered.
Carefully, he dragged his thumb across her bottom lip and freed it from between her teeth. Blood welled, and her tongue snaked out to lick it away.
“Hurts,” she gasped. “Make it stop!” Even in clear agony, Cormac noted with faint amusement, she still made demands.
“Where does it hurt?”
She moaned, pain flaring in her eyes and breaking the fragile grip his Alpha status held over her.
“How long ago did it start?” Cormac glanced over at Chase.
“As far as I can tell, less than ten minutes ago,” the Pack’s doctor replied.
“Please!” Her hand came up and caught Cormac’s wrist in a surprisingly strong grip, drawing his attention back down to her. “Make it stop. I won’t fight, I swear,” she panted. “Just make it stop.”
Cormac’s brows pulled together as he rapidly connected the dots in his mind. “The sheriff knew she was here,” he muttered. “He was fiddling with something. I thought it was a pen, a nervous tic, clicking the top.” As he spoke, he ran his free hand over the girl’s body. “Come on, little one. Where did they put it?” He caught her chin again and forced her face up. “Look at me. Where did they put it?”
“B-back,” she stuttered.
Cormac gave an abrupt nod. His eyes flicked down to the needle in Chase’s hand.
“Okay. Do it now.” He bent lower until his face was millimetres from hers. “Focus on me,” he whispered, and Alpha power settled over the room. “You’re going to sleep for a while. When you wake, the pain will be gone, and we will talk.” While he spoke, Chase slowly and carefully pushed the needle into her arm.
Fear flashed across her features, and her fingers tightened on his wrist. “Wa-wait! Don’t drug me. I won’t fight … I swear I won’t.” Her words slurred and her fingers loosened, falling to the carpet with a soft thud.
Cormac stared down at her, his eyes holding hers until her lids fluttered closed. His wolf snarled softly.
“Mac …” Chase waited for Cormac to look at him. “Who is she?”
Cormac shook his head. “Someone the Hunters want back.”
He slid his hands beneath her inert body and lifted her, her arms dropping limply and her head lolling back. A couple of quick steps took him to his bed, and he carefully placed her on it.
“I thought you didn’t want her in your bed.”
Cormac paused as he unbuttoned the shirt—one of his—she was wearing. “I’m not a complete monster, Chase.” He pulled her arms out of the sleeves, lifted her a little, so he could slide the shirt from beneath her and tossed it to one side. Pursing his lips, he looked down at her still form. He hadn’t realised quite how small she was when she had been spitting at him like a wild cat. “Tiny little thing, isn’t she? I thought she would have at least put some weight on by now.”
“The food we’ve been sending up has been coming back barely touched. I was thinking about setting up an IV and forcing her to eat that way.” The doctor stepped up beside Cormac. “Why did you strip her?”
“Weren’t you listening?” Cormac rolled the girl onto her stomach and heard Chase’s sharp intake of breath when he saw the scars crisscrossing her back. “She was whipped,” he supplied softly in explanation, his voice giving no hint of the anger his wolf flooded him with. “At a guess, I’d say she hasn’t been their most compliant female. Pain is an easy method to force good behaviour.” He traced a finger lightly along one of the silvery lines. “The whipping didn’t instil enough fear, though, so they looked for something more effective.” His finger moved downward and hovered over the wound he’d discovered a few days earlier. “An implant, controlled remotely.” Cormac finally lifted his eyes to look at Chase. “Remove it,” he instructed.
Chase frowned. “How can you be certain there’s an implant?”
“The timing, the sheriff’s actions.” Cormac bent slightly and inhaled. “The smell.” He tapped gently beside the wound. “This is the freshest mark on her body. It doesn’t match the rest. It’s deeper and more precise—a surgical cut. It’s there, Chase, and I want it removed.”
“All right. I’ll need to go and get my bag first.”
“We’ll look into building you a surgery. I get the feeling we’re going to need it.” Cormac waved a hand. “Go. I’ll stay with her.”
Chase hesitated. “Don’t you have a call scheduled with the other Alphas … to discuss the list Damien left?”
“My Pack comes before anything else. Ask Deacon to take it. All he needs to do is inform them he’s emailing all Pack Alphas a copy of the list of names and get them to check on their Pack members.”
“She’s not Pack.”
Cormac turned his head, silver eyes flaring. He couldn’t explain it, but he knew this young woman had a part to play in whatever was brewing. “She’s in my Sanctuary, surrounded by my Pack.”
Chase inclined his head at the finality in Cormac’s words. “Of course. I’ll return as fast as I can.”