Roman Volkov’s wolf laid claim to the abandoned little girl he discovered in a decrepit barn before he could turn sideways. Suddenly a new father, he had to find a way to balance his home life and his work life with a new baby. It wasn’t easy, but when Logan and his friend Adam arrive in Silo looking for sanctuary after being homeless and without pack, he thought he might have found an answer.
Logan never expected to find everything he’d ever wanted in one package deal.
Logan Bower and his best friend Adam Hollis were both searching for safety. Outcasts for different reasons, they both thought they’d finally found a home in Silo. A job for Adam was a great start, and meeting the Silo alpha had gone better than expected.
But powers outside of Silo aren’t happy about the possibility of having a gay alpha right at their border. When an unknown evil that has unknowingly influenced Silo throughout the last decade begins to interfere with Roman’s personal life and endanger his new daughter, it’s time to make a stand for all he believes in. For all those he loves, and protects.
Roman slipped through the woods like a phantom, unseen and unheard. Pausing every few steps, he sniffed to test the wind, feeling it brush against his coat with a natural tease. The moon hung low and full in the trees, spreading shadows like confetti across the ground, dots of darkness. Restlessness moved through his bones. A known, mounting unease had drawn him out more nights than he could count over the last few years. Though, tonight… Something deeper than his own boredom and instinctiveness to be on the hunt had settled into his marrow. He knew this territory like the cover of a cherished book. Every crack, every crevice, rock and tree.
There was a silence on the ground tonight that wasn’t natural to the rhythm of the night. It wasn’t exactly a calm silence. There was… an anxiousness, a bated breath.
He heard a faint noise and cocked his head, fighting to separate the distant warble from the nocturnal norm with the twitch of an ear. An almost not there fleeting whimper on the breeze. As he focused, he realized it was a weak cry of distress. He inched forward a few paces, his gaze delving into those impenetrable shadows. Lifting his head, he inhaled, analyzing every scent in a nanosecond.
It was faint, metallic. And old. Cold. He moved purposefully, letting the scent draw him as well as any bloodhound. Within minutes, the scent grew stronger, more than a mere echo borne by the breeze. He adjusted his trajectory. His stride lengthened as the scent became concrete. There was definitely blood. A lot of it.
Another nearly inaudible whimper prompted urgency into his run. He leaped over obstacles lithely, swerving around trees like he was liquid mercury.
Dirt and rocks rustled when he skidded to a stop at the edge of the barren field. Tall grass and weeds allowed him to blend into the natural cover, well camouflaged. He knew the abandoned property. An old, dilapidated barn, the house condemned and boarded up. And a long way from any other habitation.
Low to the ground, the wolf moved with stealthy caution through the high grasses, his nose leading him to the barn. The blood scent was almost overpowering now. He didn’t know what he was going to find, and every sense was on alert. He froze at the edge of the grasses, listening for any sign of movement.
There was only one sound.
A faint, tired whimper.
He belly crawled to the corner of the barn. There was no light, but the blood scent was strongest from within. His lip lifted in a silent snarl. He didn’t like this.
Then the whimper reached him again. And with a twitch of his ear, he finally discerned the sound.
A baby’s distressed cry.
Slinking around the corner, glued to shadows, he crept along the interior wall of the barn. Dust and cobwebs covered every inch within his view. There were the odious scents of rodents and old hay with decay layered beneath everything. The scritch of rats grew louder as he moved closer to the strongest scent. He growled low in his throat and after a few startled hisses of dissent, the remaining scavengers fled.
He neared the source of the blood buried in old hay on the ground, likely for the little warmth it would have given when she’d first laid herself and her baby down.
And the wolf cried softly.
He tucked his snout closer to the infant. He guarded it through the night, snapping at anything that dared come within feet of the child or her mother. He didn’t know what had happened, yet hoped for answers once the sun had risen. The baby was barely alive, the mother deceased at least a day.
Roman’s lengthy howls had carried far and wide, calling his pack for help. When answers reached him on the breeze, he’d gotten to work to save the child. He’d changed his shape only to move the baby away from the cold form. Unfortunately, it wasn’t like he could walk naked to do more. He inspected her tiny clothed body for bites but miraculously found only scratches. The mother’s body had been curled around the baby, probably for warmth. A warmth she’d never know again.
Roman’s heart broke, but keeping the child alive was his only priority. He passed time nuzzling and licking over the child, giving her the warmth she needed. He didn’t know when she’d last been fed, though it was clear she needed a new diaper and medical attention.
He didn’t sleep, his vigilance interrupted by growling now and then to ward off the beasts intent on a meal.
Chris, Dave, and Cade had heard their Alpha’s commanding howls and were the first to arrive at the barn.
Dave put a hand on Roman’s furred shoulder when he reached the wolf curled around the baby, protecting it. “It’s okay, Ro. We’re here.”
Roman nodded, rubbing his head against Dave’s forearm. The wolf in him was feeling possessive of the baby after his long vigil, but didn’t argue when the three took the child. Dave immediately called in the coroner, and Roman silently snuck to the background, overseeing the ensuing activities. He observed as the young woman was brought out under a blanket, as Dave and two more officers did a thorough search of the barn.
The baby was bundled up and quickly transported to the hospital in Stiller Springs. Not for the first time, he grumbled under his breath that they needed an emergency center in Silo.
He knew many of the other residents agreed, but it was challenging to prioritize the expense when they were such a small burg. They did have smaller clinics and the veterinary office, but the Rose clinic was in its second generation, a private family business Chris’s father had started and passed on to his three boys.
As the hours ticked by and the sun appeared, one by one, the emergency vehicles and police thinned until only Dave remained.
The man stood by his cruiser for a good ten minutes after the last vehicle had departed.
“Ro, you still out there?”
Roman snorted. Damn, his second knew him too well.
Sliding through the field grass, he loped over to the car.
Dave pointed with a thumb over a shoulder when the wolf neared. “There’re sweats and a shirt on the back seat if you want a faster way home.” He politely kept his back turned.
Roman retook his human shape on the opposite side. Opening the door, he reached in and grabbed soft material.
“Thanks.” He pushed his legs through the sweatpants and adjusted the waist, tugging the shirt down after.
Dave huffed a chuckle. “I knew you wouldn’t leave.”
He shut the door smartly, asking, “What did they find?”
Dave spun to open the driver’s side door. Roman mirrored him on the other side. “Not much.” They buckled up and Dave started the engine. “A worn tote bag with a few changes of clothes, diapers, a beat up container with probably powdered milk, and a diary.”
“Any thoughts on cause of death?”
Dave pulled away from the old homestead. “I’m guessing exposure, exhaustion, and starvation. She also had severe bruising on her ribs and a broken wrist.”
So, possibly a runaway, abused. “And the baby?”
“Dehydrated for sure. Diaper rash I wouldn’t wish on anyone. She’s a fighter though. She’ll rebound.”
“Take me home. I’ll come to the station to make the report after a shower.”
“How are we going to cover finding her?” He slanted a quick look toward his alpha.
“Anonymous call. The Potter house has been empty for fifteen years. The county wants to claim the land, but there has to be someone out there with a plan that would be better suited than a new housing development.” The new apartments had already brought a boost of population and helped the economy for Silo; he wasn’t ready to push forward again. Expanding too quickly was not what Silo needed. He knew they didn’t have the resources for a flood of new citizens.
“It’s a good-sized chunk of land,” Dave agreed. “Why don’t you do something with it?”
Roman shook his head. “I have my land.”
Dave didn’t add more, instead offering, “I’ll start a search in the database for runaway teens with her description. The rats though…” His hands curled around the steering wheel.
Roman grimaced. He’d seen. “I believe she died in her sleep. The way I found her, holding the baby, it was a conscious decision to lie to cover her, to keep her warm and safe. Was the bruising below or above?”
Roman nodded, expecting as much. “Didn’t examine her in-depth.”
“Her clothes were damaged by the scavengers, and her shoes showed heavy wear, like she’d been wearing them for a long time.”
“Or walking and never stopping.”
“Yeah,” Dave agreed with a raw sound. The rest of the ride was silent until they reached the house and Roman was ready to step out of the car.
He bent to speak with a hand on the door. “I’ll be there shortly.”
Roman waited as his pack beta turned his vehicle around and drove off. Walking around the corner to the rear door of the house, he lifted a loose plank and found the spare key to unlock the door. With it opened, he tucked the key away, ensuring the lines of the plank were perfect before entering his home.
A quick shower boosted him into firm wakefulness. His schedule was clear for the next few days. There was time to figure out what had happened to the baby and her mother.
A little more than an hour later, he pulled into a parking space at the station, anxious to get updates on the infant. Once inside, he smiled at Nancy. She returned it, saying, “Good morning, Mr. Volkov.”
“Morning. Is the sheriff busy?”
“Not that I know. I think he’s been waiting for you.” She punched in a code on the security panel behind her and opened the heavy door for him.
He entered the hallway and walked to Dave’s office. Pausing, he cleared his throat. He was Alpha, but he still respected the sheriff’s place and territory.
“Come on in,” Dave encouraged. He waved to a seat.
“I found the girl. Teenage runaway. A foster case. Tamara Proctor. Missing since October of last year.”
He turned his monitor to show Roman what the girl had looked like. Brown hair to her shoulders, somber expression. Already world weary at… “God, she was only fourteen.” Roman released a slow exhale. “And the baby?”
“No record found.”
“She gave birth on her own?” For a man who believed in family, in pack, the loneliness she’d suffered sliced deep.
“Off the grid at the least,” Dave said, subdued.
“You said there was a diary. Was there birth information? A name?”
“I forgot about it. I’ve been in here searching for the mother. Let me go get it from evidence.” Dave stood but was gone for only a few minutes. “I went through her things again. Aside from baby supplies, this is all there was. No ID, nothing personal,” he said when he returned.
Instead of sitting behind the desk, he took the chair next to Roman’s. And opened the dirt-smeared diary.
The first few pages were notes about the new foster she was with and it quickly turned dark and angry.
He raped me again. Fucking Wendy is super blonde, oblivious. Doesn’t even know he’s raping me while she’s at work. I have to get out, but where do I go?
Both men stiffened the more they read. Pages of sorrow, anger, pain, until…
I’m fucked. I’m pregnant. That was all she wrote for the entry.
“Dear God.” Dave trembled in his chair. “Why didn’t she tell her agent, or even go to the police?”
There were no answers to those questions in her tales.
She’d runaway. Made friends. Survived through the late winter as she avoided discovery and taking care of the baby the best she could. There was no doubt she was pregnant, and knew the baby would be coming soon.
They read until they reached a page written by someone else.
The baby came tonight. A little girl. There was a date on the page, but no time, or even a name of who had written it, or if there was a reason why it wasn’t Tamara.
There was a time gap, only a couple of days, then Tamara started writing again.
I started bleeding again. I know if I go to the hospital, they’ll take Zoe away from me. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost her. She means the world to me. I know that fucktard Richard did this but to me, she’s my little miracle. We’re strong together. She makes me strong.
Roman’s throat clenched as he fought the rush of emotions determined to take him down.
We’re hungry, and I’m tired, but I can’t stop. He can’t find us. I’ll never let her go.
Dave wiped a hand across his eyes, a shudder rocking his frame. “This is what I absolutely hate about my job. This pain.”
Roman rested a hand on his shoulder.
The last entry in the book was only three nights before.
I’m going to find help in the morning. I have to. That fucker at the truck stop broke my wrist. Over a fucking blowjob. All I wanted was enough money to get Zoe milk. The way I’m bleeding, I can barely move. Even I know sex is out of the question.
The writing was haphazard, scribbled, and unlike any previous entries. An attempt to write with her uninjured hand.
Roman ghosted a finger over an ink smear. It oddly looked like a tear stain. “Dear God.”
“I can order an autopsy,” Dave said. “I’m going to find her placement information and make a formal report and try for charges against her fosters. She’s gone, but God help us if he isn’t stopped from this abuse.”
Roman’s mind was whirling, yet in a state of utter blankness. Every thought was moving so fast, it was nothing but darkness. It was as though his soul had pitched him into an abyss, one that held no answers. There was no rhyme or reason to what fell from his lips next.
“I claim Zoe.”
“It’s not that easy,” Dave stated, sitting straight. “You know there are laws, locating family, adoption processes—”
Roman had never been so deeply sure of anything in his life. This he had to do. He faced Dave with an unflinching gaze. “She was looking for help. I wasn’t fast enough to save her. I can save Zoe.”