Wolf's Trust: Now Available
Wolf's Trust, Book 5 in the Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series has published.
It is available on Amazon.com as an ebook, and will soon be available in paperback.
Wolf's Trust is enrolled in KDP, which means you can read it free if you have a subscription to Kindle Unlimited.
The Texas Ranch Wolf Pack Series are serial in nature.
While I strive to make them somewhat understandable alone, they are meant to be read in sequence, starting with Wolf's Man.
Read First 2 Chapters Below!
Daryll carried Zoe out of the office and down the stairs. Dizzy, she swallowed and turned her face against his shoulder to avoid the curious gazes leveled at her when they reached the living room. She felt Daryll’s sigh, and glanced up to see him shake his head at the were people watching them. Only Daryll’s arms around her kept her from panic. So many werewolves, and who knew what other kind of were animals. He carried her out the front door and settled her back into the front seat of the SUV he drove when he took her to the hospital for treatment for her head injury and snapped her seatbelt.
She watched him walk around the front of the car and slide into the driver’s seat. He slammed the door. She jumped and put her hand to her aching head. Daryll looked at her, a frown settled between his eyebrows, but he kept his lips pressed tightly together. He smelled awful. She stared at him, for the first time realizing she splattered his jeans and shoes when she was vomiting. He put the SUV in gear and started driving.
“Where are we going?” The thin sound of her voice surprised her, but then, she never felt so afraid before.
“Nate told me to take you home with me.” His eyes cut toward her before returning to the dirt road. “We’re going to my house.”
Zoe swallowed. The Alpha also told him not to hurt her . . . not to touch her. That last part confused her. “Where is your house?”
“It’s here on the ranch, down the road a bit. We’ll be there soon.”
A few minutes later, just as the sun slipped down behind the trees, they turned onto another dirt road. Soon it ended in a clearing with five modular homes. In the waning light, Zoe studied the circular drive giving access to a driveway for each house, with an SUV parked at all but one of the houses. All the houses had a large, covered porch built onto the front. The dim light from the porch lights showed each porch had several rocking chairs and swings that looked sturdy enough even for Daryll’s lumberjack size and weight.
He pulled the vehicle into the empty driveway and turned off the motor. “This is it.”
“Your house?” Zoe frowned when he nodded without looking at her. “You said you have sisters?”
The fear in her voice must have gotten through to him. “Two. They won’t hurt you.”
He finally looked at her, his face holding an odd expression. “I’m sure. They’ll know better.”
Daryll shook his head. He got out and came around the front of the SUV. Opening her door, he leaned in, released her seat belt, and picked her up. Zoe wasn’t a large woman, but it impressed her that he lifted her with such ease. He walked up the steps. Before they reached the front door, it opened and a woman stepped out to hold the door for them. Her nose wrinkled at the smell of them both. Daryll nodded to her, then carried Zoe inside.
Zoe bit her lip, tense, then relaxed slightly against him as she looked around, studying Daryll’s home. When he huffed, she looked up at his frown. “Think we lived in caves?”
She felt her face burn and silently cursed the fair skin that would let him see her embarrassment. Unsure what to say, she kept her mouth shut. She glanced again at the living room. The only thing that kept it from looking like any human family lived there was the sturdiness of the furniture. It was built to fit the man holding her.
Warm gold, brown, and rich jades decorated the room, but there were feminine touches, too. Frilled beige curtains draped each window, with matching lace panels defusing the early evening light coming through them. Lace throw pillows made of a coordinating beige fabric were scattered across the furniture. Beige and gold roses filled crystal vases on the tables, while lush green ivy hung in pots suspended from the ceiling in the two back corners.
Zoe glanced at the kitchen. Taupe walls had a backsplash of brown, beige, and turquoise tile, with subtle hints of embedded iron pyrite glinting in the light. Brown tile countertops sported a large, copper double-sink, faucet, and polished copper appliances. Not the colors Zoe would have thought to choose for her own home, but the combination of colors was pleasing, comfortable, homey. She liked it.
Daryll shifted a bit, and she looked up at him. He watched her face as if it really mattered what she thought of his home. He cleared his throat. “Well?”
“You have a lovely home, Daryll.” The relief on his face startled her. He grinned, carried her to a recliner covered in brown fabric, and gently set her on it.
The front door closed quietly. Zoe looked at the woman standing beside the door. A frown on her face, the woman looked from Daryll to Zoe, then sighed. She nodded and walked to Zoe. Leaning over, she offered her hand. “I’m Bess, Daryll’s oldest sister.” When Zoe looked at her hand without responding, Bess sighed again. “You’re safe here. No one will hurt you.”
Zoe looked up at Bess’ sincere brown eyes, swallowed, and shook her hand. “I’m Zoe.” She bit her lip, cut her eyes at Daryll, then looked at Bess again. “You’re a . . . werebear?”
Light glinted in the woman’s eyes. “It’s a family thing.”
Zoe gave her a strained smile, refusing to cower. “I suppose that makes sense.”
Bess laughed and looked at Daryll. “I can see why.”
When Zoe turned to follow Bess’ gaze, she was surprised to see Daryll’s face flush. Ignoring his sister, he dropped on one knee beside the recliner. “Do you think you could eat? Or would you like to clean up first?”
Zoe swallowed and shook her head, then frowned when the movement made the room swing around her. “I’m not sure I could keep anything down. Or stand in the shower.”
Bess cleared her throat. “How about some chamomile tea?”
Zoe looked up at Bess. “Tea sounds wonderful.”
The front door slammed hard into the living room wall. Zoe jerked and turned to look past Daryll, the sudden movement causing her head to spin and pain to spear through her head. She caught the arms of the recliner in a tight grip. Closing her eyes, she tried to control her surging stomach. Daryll’s hand covered her right hand, comforting her.
“Why is she here?”
Zoe forced her eyes open and stared at the belligerent stance of a teen girl, her long brown hair pulled back in a ponytail. Anger burned in the girl’s eyes. Zoe swallowed, then sighed in relief when Daryll stood up and stepped between them. Leaning her head to the left, Zoe peered past Daryll at the agitated teen.
“That’s enough, Stella.”
“But she’s . . ..”
Daryll growled. Stella’s mouth hung open for a minute, then she shook her head. “Really? You’d growl at me when you bring a Hunter into our house?”
Blinking at the anger she saw in Daryll’s stance, Zoe watched him grab Stella by the arm and push her out the open door. He shut the door and the screen quietly behind them. Zoe frowned. She couldn’t hear what they said, but the anger in his voice and the belligerence in Stella’s came through. Bess walked into the living room from the kitchen and handed her a mug filled with fragrant chamomile tea.
Zoe looked at her. “I’m sorry.”
Bess tilted her head and shrugged. “You’re a Huntsman. Huntsmen kill were. There will be many here who don’t want you and your friends to stay, but if the Alpha says you stay, they will eventually accept you.” Her eyes twinkled. “That doesn’t mean they will like you, but they won’t hurt you if you don’t try to hurt someone else. Again.”
So, Bess knew Zoe stabbed Colonel Marston. Avoiding the older woman’s gaze, Zoe looked down at her tea and took a sip. “I won’t hurt anyone.”
“Good, because the Alpha put you in Daryll’s care. If you hurt someone, Daryll will be held responsible.”
Zoe swallowed. She glanced up. The intense stare Bess gave her made Zoe twitch. She returned her gaze to the mug in her trembling hands. “I didn’t expect Daryll to be so . . . kind.”
Bess laughed. “Because he’s a bear?”
“Because . . ..” Zoe looked up and shrugged. “I don’t understand. I was taught . . ..” Taking a deep breath, she looked at the woman standing over her. “I was taught were want to kill and eat humans. Or change them to were.”
“You were taught wrong.”
“That’s what Daryll said.”
The front door opened. Stella stomped in and down the hall to her room, slamming her bedroom door behind her. Zoe winced. Daryll followed Stella into the house, a frown on his face. When he looked at Zoe, his frown smoothed away. “Think you could bathe?”
Zoe glanced at the vomit dried on his jeans and shoes, embarrassment again filling her face. “I’m sorry.”
He shook his head. “It’s okay. You have a concussion.” He bowed his head, then peered up at her, uncertainty in his face. “I can help you if you can’t wash up alone, or Bess can.”
The thought of Daryll being in the bath with her made her shiver. Unsure whether the thought was intriguing or frightening, she pushed it out of her mind. “If Bess can help . . ..”
Bess smiled. “Of course.” She studied Zoe for a minute, then nodded. “I think sitting on a stool in the shower would be better than in the tub. Daryll might need to lift you out and . . ..” She bit her bottom lip. Zoe thought she was fighting another smile. “I don’t think that would be good for either of you.”
Zoe blinked. Not good for him? “A shower is good.”
With a strict look at Daryll, Bess motioned toward the back of the house. “Off with you, Daryll. You need to clean up even more than she does.”
Daryll sighed, nodded, and walked toward the kitchen. He stopped and spun to face Bess. “Nate said to destroy her clothes. He thinks there’s a tracker in them.”
“It’s not in my clothes.” Zoe caught her breath and looked down at her hands. She didn’t hear him moving, but suddenly, he was bending over her, his hands on the recliner arms.
“Not in the clothes? You know where it is?” His gentle voice was close to her ear, but there was iron in it, too.
Zoe flinched away from him. “It’s in my ring.”
Daryll picked up her hand and studied the signet she wore. “You’re sure?”
“Yes. Only those who worked as interns for the Triumvirate know it’s there. It’s used as an identifier to help us know other hunters when we see them. Or a locator if we are lost or . . . run.”
“That’s how you knew the nurse that tried to kill you was a Hunter?” When she nodded, he asked, “Some of you run?”
She couldn’t look at him.
“Zoe, why do some of you run?” When she didn’t look up, Daryll curled his fingers beneath her chin and pulled her face up. “Why?”
Zoe blinked, trying without success to force back the tears that pooled in her eyes. “Sometimes, the training is too hard, or someone decides they can’t kill, or . . ..”
She shook her head, unwilling to continue.
“What happens to them?”
“Once the oath is taken, a Hunter isn’t allowed to ever leave. If they do, they . . . die, or they are taken to the . . . Triumvirate.” She swallowed.
“They’re never seen or heard from again.” Zoe clenched her eyes closed, trying to still the image of the room whirling around her. “I saw two of the runners . . . die, once. They . . ..” Her fingers caught the wrist of the hand holding her chin. “I can’t go back . . . they’ll kill me, too.”
Daryll’s menacing growl startled her and she looked into his eyes. “No one will take you from me.” She shivered at his fierce expression. She bowed her head, staring at the signet ring on her hand.
When he picked up her hand, she glanced at him. “You have to take the ring off, Zoe.”
“I can’t. It . . . there’s a poison dart in it. If I take it off, I’ll die.”
The room was so quiet Zoe looked up. Daryll’s squatted on his heels, studying her. “You know this how?”
“When runners are brought back, the Triumvirate removes their rings. I saw . . . they die. Painfully. When their rings aren’t taken, they just disappear. They’re never seen again.”
“But you know what happens to them?”
Zoe swallowed, her breathing quick and shallow at her remembered terror. “I didn’t know . . . I went back for . . . I lost my phone and needed to find it. I saw . . . they . . . I didn’t know . . ..” She closed her eyes, trying to erase foggy dreamlike images from her mind. “Nate said the Triumvirate are vampires?”
“You saw the vampires attack someone?” Something in Daryll’s voice opened her eyes.
Zoe looked at him. Really looked at him. There was shock in his eyes. And sorrow. She nodded and whispered, “She didn’t even scream when the . . . the vampires sucked the blood from her.”
“Did the vamps know you saw them?”
“I . . . don’t . . ..” Her gaze darkened and she thought she would pass out. She shivered, then took a shallow breath. “I don’t remember.”
Daryll stroked his thumb over the signet ring, frowning. “We’ll figure out how to take it off without hurting you, Zoe. For now, wear it. I’ll talk to Nate, see if he has any ideas.”
Bess put her hand on Daryll’s arm. “Enough, for now, Daryll. You get a shower, and let me get her cleaned up.”
Daryll allowed Bess to pull him away from Zoe, but his gaze stayed on Zoe’s face. “You are safe here, Zoe. I won’t let them hurt you.” Bess waved at him, shooing him away. He spun on his heel and walked through the kitchen to the back of the house, then disappeared down a hall Zoe could barely see from where she sat.
Zoe bit her lip and looked up at Bess’ contemplative gaze. “I don’t understand.”
Bess smiled, sorrow in her eyes. “You will when you feel better.” She sighed. “For now, let’s get you cleaned up.”
Peyton Marston, a former Colonel in the Black Forest Huntsman, ran his splayed fingers through his hair. Paige set a cup of coffee in front of him, and he looked up at his daughter. Her smile hid the sadness she didn’t want him to see, but her face was too expressive and he knew her too well to miss it. Sighing, he looked down at his cup.
“I’m sorry, Paige. I’m sorry I ever got us involved with the Huntsmen.”
“It wasn’t you, Dad. It was Mom.”
Peyton swallowed and looked out the RV window. “I wish . . . I . . ..” Peyton bowed his head.
“Mom and Peter weren’t your fault, Dad. Mom is the one who insisted that we all be Huntsmen. Mom is the one who talked Peter into going with her. Mom is the one who shot him when he was bitten.” Paige sat on the bench across the small table and captured his right hand in both of hers. Her sorrow hit him hard. “Mom killed that wolf’s pups, Dad. I won’t say she got what she deserved, but . . . she caused it.”
The muscle in Peyton’s jaw clenched. “Still, I should have tried to get her away from her family when I learned about the Huntsmen.”
“You know they wouldn’t have let her go. And after you found out about them, they’d have killed you if you didn’t join.” Paige sighed and squeezed his fingers. “They’ll be coming after us, now.”
Children’s laughter floated on the afternoon breeze, and Peyton looked out the window. Children aged four to fourteen played in the central compound yard. The younger kids played chase, while the older kids played with a softball, throwing to each other in turn across a large circle. Paige, Phillip, and Peter never had the opportunity to be kids. Not really. Thanks to Pauline. She and her family pulled him into the Huntsmen when he was a young man. It was all his kids ever knew. And that haunted him. Especially now.
The werewolves, werebears, and werepanthers he met since coming to the ranch were nothing like the blood-thirsty, human-hating, human-eating, animals the Triumvirate preached. Peyton shook his head to clear his thoughts and stared at the Huntsman signet ring he still wore. He hated the ring and everything it stood for, now. And he knew removing it would kill him.
A door slammed. Peyton turned to look at the RV parked next to the one he and his two grown kids were living in. A small woman picked up two stacked laundry baskets and started walking toward the main house with an uneven gait. He watched one of the teen boys run up to her. After she briefly fussed at him, she surrendered the laundry baskets to him, and he carried them the rest of the way to the house. Peyton frowned when she followed him, her limp hindering her ability to keep up with the boy.
Peyton pursed his lips and looked at Paige. “What?”
“That’s Nettie. Her husband was the Alpha to the Oklahoma Adair Pack until he attacked Janelle. Janelle killed him.”
“And Nate brought Nettie here?”
Paige shrugged. “It’s a long story, Dad. She was already on her way here when her husband died. He tried to stab Janelle in the middle of the night. Janelle shot him. When Nettie got here, they found out her husband abused her and the kids.” Paige refilled Peyton’s coffee cup and got herself a cup. “The Oklahoma pack refused to let them come back. Nate gave them a home here.”
Leaning back into the upholstered bench back, Peyton sipped his coffee and studied his daughter’s face. “He’s different than I expected.”
“Nate? Yeah. They’re all different.” Paige sipped her coffee, then set the cup on the table. “Nate wants me and Phillip to join the teens in their training.”
“Why? You’ve both been trained to fight, and you’re not wolves.”
“He thinks it would help the wolves to know how we were trained.” She bit her lip, uncertainty in her eyes before she looked at her coffee cup. “I told him we’d think about it.”
“Because of me?”
Paige nodded without looking up.
“Do you want to?”
“I don’t know.” She swallowed and looked out the window. “I don’t want to hurt them, anymore, Dad. I’m not sure I ever did.”
When she turned her sorrow-filled gaze back to him, Peyton fought the urge to pull her into his lap like he did when she was a child. “All the things your mother and I taught you were wrong, Paige. It’s . . . .” He swallowed hard. “It’s hard to say that. Even harder to know it bone deep. These are good people. I can’t tell you how much I regret what I’ve done. What I taught you and your brothers.” He took a deep breath and let it out in a rush. “If you want to help them, I won’t mind. I won’t ask you to if you don’t want to, but I won’t stop you, either.”
He endured her searching gaze. “Nate asked me to help, too. I’ve already told him I would do anything to help him keep his people safe. Even if it means going against people I believed were my friends. Not because they’ll kill me for being here, but because they are wrong.”
Her shuddering breath hurt him. He and her mother had done this to her. And Phillip. And Peter, too. Put them in this situation. “I’m sorry I was so wrong, Paige.”
“You didn’t know. None of us did.” Paige stood up and poured the last of her coffee down the small RV sink, rinsed her cup and set it in the drainer. “You want more coffee?”
“No, this is enough.”
Paige turned off the coffee maker. “I’m gonna go help Janelle and the other ladies make macaroni and cheese.”
Surprise raised his eyebrow. “It takes all of you to open boxes?”
“Homemade. I told Janelle I would shred the cheese for her. She ordered shredded, and it came in huge five-pound slabs.” Her hand was on the door latch. “It’ll take a while to shred sufficient cheese to make enough for this whole crew, even with a food processor.”
Peyton laughed and waved a hand toward the door. “I suppose it will. Go on, then.” When she frowned at him, he gave her a smile. “I’m okay, Paige. Just trying to work through some of my baggage.”
“If you need . . ..”
“I’ll let you know.” He met her gaze until she nodded and opened the RV door.
“See you at supper, then.” The door closed behind her.
Peyton took the last sip of his coffee. With a sigh, he stood and rinsed his cup, then set it in the drainer. Since his surviving children were never sent on hunts, they didn’t have the memories he did, the regrets. Peyton walked to the back of the RV and stretched out on the bed. Nor did they have the nightmares that plagued him since learning he wasn’t the protector he thought he was. Instead, he was a murderer.
Four hours later, another nightmare woke him. He panicked, not knowing where he was for a moment. We are on the ranch. Krieges’ words vibrated through his mind. Peyton wasn’t sure he would ever get used to sharing his thoughts with his wolf. Blinking, he sat up. The sun was still shining, but it wouldn’t be for much longer. Swinging his feet to the floor, he wiped his face with both hands. Sooner or later, he needed to accept what he was. A werewolf. A made wolf, as Nate called him. Eli, Nate’s adopted brother, didn’t have this much trouble becoming a wolf. But then, Eli hadn’t spent the last twenty-eight years as a Huntsman, either.
Peyton walked to the kitchen and pulled a bottle of water out of the small fridge under the counter. Before he opened it, he glanced out the window. Nettie carried two baskets of folded laundry back toward the RVs, her hip making the distance difficult. Peyton looked for the teens, but they were gone. He set the water bottle on the counter, left the RV, and jogged toward Nettie.
Before he got to her, her eyes widened. Breathing hard, she stopped and took a half-step back toward the main house. Peyton smiled. He reached for the baskets, his hand brushing hers.
With a gasp, she yanked her hands away from his touch. Peyton barely caught the baskets when she jerked away. She’s an abuse victim. Realizing his approach had frightened her, he stood very still. “I won’t hurt you,” he said softly.
She swallowed, took another step away from him.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to alarm you.” He bit his lip. Whatever her husband did, it really messed her up. “I’m going to carry these to your RV, then I’ll go away.”
He waited until she gave him a slight nod, then turned and hurried to her small home. Setting the baskets on the ground next to the door, he looked at her, head tilted to the left. He turned and took a step toward his RV.
Without his wolf hearing, he wouldn’t have heard her low whisper. He stopped and faced her. “You’re welcome. Let me know if you ever need help.”
Nettie shook her head. “No. Don’t ever do that again.” His forehead wrinkled at the fear he felt coming from her. She sidled past him. “Never again.” Opening the door, she rushed inside, leaving the clothes baskets where he set them. The door slammed behind her, and the lock clicked.
Peyton sighed and turned away, then spun back when he heard the lock click and the door open. Nettie peeked around the edge of the door at him, her face pale and her eyes wide. Peyton took a step toward her and stopped when she shook her head.
“No.” Her voice trembled. “Thank you, but no. I don’t want another man. Not again.” She stared at him.
“I was just being neighborly when I carried your laundry, Nettie. I won’t hurt you.”
“That’s what he said. In the beginning. But he lied. I think . . . I think I’m broken. I can’t smell lies like most can, so . . ..” She swallowed hard, then whispered, “I just can’t take the chance.” The door closed quietly. The lock snapped.
This is the end of your free sneak preview.
This is the end of your free sneak preview.
Next in Series, Wolf's Reign, Texas Ranch Wolf Pack, Book 6, is the end of this storyline, but I am planning to write a few stand-alone stories/novels for this set of characters.
Wolf's Reign is the culmination of all the events leading to Nate accepting the High Were King coronation, a position he doesn't want.
After all, he has his own problems. But with his brother's support, he may just be able to pull it off.
Wolf's Reign is scheduled to publish in November.
Get Caught Up on the Series!
Book 1: Wolf's Man
Book 2: Wolf's Claim
Book 3: Wolf's Mission
Book 4: Wolf's Huntsman
Book 5: Wolf's Trust
Book 6: Wolf's Reign (Coming Soon!)