Wolves for the Holiday 1.2 (18+) © Josette Reuel
Ridge looked down at his mate snuggled in his strong arms. It had taken everything in him to leave her in the middle of the night when all he wanted was to keep her in bed for the remainder of their lives. Instead, he had left to make sure of her and her friends’ safety by dealing with the rogue threat.
The previous day he, along with Mahk and Chase — his Beta and his Enforcer — was chasing rogues when they came across the small cabin and the most wonderful smell. As it is for all wolf shifters, he knew immediately that his mate was inside that building. All three wolves had stopped and stared at the cabin. Ridge had felt like he was frozen in place. The memories swam through his mind, taking him back to the moment when he had found her, his amazing and wonderfully sweet mate.
When he lifted his snout into the air the scent trail to the cabin separated into three distinct aromas. He was positive that his mate along with two other women resided inside the wooden walls. It was difficult to breathe and his sides caved deep with each breath as he fought for oxygen. His mate. He had finally found his mate. His eyes roamed the cabin walls until he zeroed in on the window beside the front door and the scent was confirmed when he saw three sets of wide eyes staring back at him and his fellow wolves.
Ridge was unable to resist the primal instinct and his head tipped back as he released a joyous howl. He was immediately followed by a melody of celebration from Mahk and Chase and their song echoed off the sides of the mountain behind the cabin. Ridge couldn’t help but prance with the emotions that surged through his large wolf body as his eyes searched out his mate in the small window frame. He locked on to warm pools of chocolate, eyes the deep brown of the earth that he dug his claws into when he ran through the forest. She was mesmerizing and he needed her… Right. Now.
With his entire being he willed her to open the door and come to him. He felt the fragile beginnings of their mating bond. The glowing threads gleamed in his mind as they twined and became stronger. That was when the SUV had arrived and a Mr. Haver from the town of Holiday stepped out and raised a rifle. A fleeting thought, “Why was a man he called friend raising a weapon on him?” ran through his mind and was gone as the human immediately went from friend to enemy as his wolf’s instincts took control. Ridge and his pack mates turned towards the threat, the fur along their spines raised as they went on the defensive. Ridge’s desire to keep the woman he had just found safe was a primal urge that took over his actions and Ridge had no thought of his own safety as his lips pulled back in a deep snarl.
A click sounded from the door behind him as the explosive report of the gun shattered the stillness of the snow covered night. A second shot rang out as the door banged open and the bullet burned through his front leg. How would he protect her if he was injured or dead? Ridge glanced at the cabin and then at his men. Mahk and Chase both nodded and in seconds they were racing for the tree line. They would lead the man away and then return.
Before they reached the cover of the forest, a third shot from the rifle grazed the muscle of his flank and he slid in the wet snow. His leg crumpled under him and severe pain raced through his system but he pushed it down. Adrenaline took over and helped him scramble back to his paws and push off the ground in a final leap into the cover of the trees. Mahk and Chase came up beside him, their bodies helping to brace him and keep him upright as they pushed him to hurry to safety.
Finally coming to a stop in a clearing, Chase scouted around to make sure the human wasn’t close. They had wanted the man to follow them and leave their mates alone, but with Ridge’s injury it put them all in a precarious situation. Then, there were the rogues they had been tracking as well. While Chase was gone, Mahk nosed his wounds and whined. The bullets had been made with silver. Ridge’s body couldn’t expel the one that remained inside his front leg and the silver residue from both were making it difficult to stop the blood flow or heal the wound as he normally would. Blood continued to flow down his flank as the silver kept his wounds open and poisoned his system. He lowered his head in defeat. He would bleed out or the silver would kill him and just when he had found his mate his life would end. A weak whimper sounded as he tried to move forward and collapsed to the ground. With his last bit of will he shifted back to his human skin.
“Mahk, take care of her.” Each word forced through his mouth more air than sound. “Take care of the pack.”
“Alpha.” Mahk acknowledged Ridge as he laid his hands over the wound on his arm and the heat of healing energy began to mend the skin over the silver bullet.
With the last of his energy gone and the silver seeping into his veins, Ridge let the darkness take him. His last thoughts were of deep chocolate eyes.
Awareness had returned slowly that day. He had been saturated in the scent of his mate and his wolf side took control easily. In truth, up to the point that the bullet was removed he didn’t remember much of what had happened. When Chase returned and reported that the townsman had left the cabin, Mahk had made the decision to move him there and seek help from the women. The rogues had been circling and with him incapacitated, they would have all died as his Beta and Enforcer tried to protect him. Such was the way of the pack — protect the Alpha at all costs. At times, Ridge didn’t like it, but it was the way of things.
The night spent in his mate’s arms had been that of his deepest fantasies. His parents had always told him that it would be this way — how he wished they were here to meet his mate.
Glancing down at the beautiful, curvy woman in his arms he knew that life as he knew it was over. Fearless acts would have to cease. He would no longer be the one on the front lines. Funny how the Elders had tried to get him to understand that fact for years. Ridge laughed as he imagined their faces when they realized that he would allow his Enforcer and Beta to take a more active role as he stepped back to lead his people from the administrative side. It wouldn’t be easy; Ridge had been trained as a warrior, but he would do it for her. Ridge froze. How was it that she was able to change him, when his duty to the pack hadn’t? Was the mating bond so much stronger than that of the pack? He had always been taught that the pack was everything. His father had taught him that the health and safety of each member of the pack had to come before his own.
Mahk and Chase pushed past him and he realized that they still stood at the front door. Jaz’s friend appearing to be in shock clutched something to her breast in the kitchenette and Mahk walked straight towards her. Chase was prowling, sniffing, and verifying everyone’s safety. Ridge noticed that he kept glancing down the hallway; he would stumble as he passed as if he wanted to go down the darkened corridor but wouldn’t allow himself to follow his own desires. It had surprised him that both of his best friends had also found their mates. He grinned. Friends mating friends. It was destined. The three human women would accept things much easier if they had each other to lean on.
Ridge glanced around one last time, gave each of the men a nod and finally carried Jaz down the hallway to her room. He curled up on the bed with her and snuggled her close to his side and kept her tight in his arms. Waiting on her to waken would be sweet torture with her warm body fitting to his in such a perfect complement. Puzzle pieces that had finally found their homes in the big picture.
He hadn’t wanted to leave his mate in those hours before dawn, but the rogues were still out there. Not to mention the need for clothes around the humans. A sigh broke free… he had no desire for him or Jaz to wear clothes, but logic dictated that eventually he would have to let her out of the bed. He chuckled softly — leave it to him to find his mate when things were a mess.
He’d had no sleep the night before and exhaustion was taking over. The warmth and contentment of being in his mate’s sweet embrace was more powerful than his need to be alert. This was going to be the best Christmas ever he thought as he slipped into dreams of the night before.