Marco has made the heart wrenching decision to leave the pack after a stunning decision by the council. To add insult to injury, Ian, his beta and best friend, agrees with the council, and they have asked a new alpha to take Marco's place if he refuses. Furious, Marco storms out, renouncing his leadership and vowing to start a new pack, one not bound by the old-fashioned laws and beliefs of the Dark Hollows pack. Joined by his most loyal pack members, Marco knows that the days ahead will be dangerous and challenging.
On an isolated mountain trail, Marco's pack is ambushed and attacked by the very men he once called friends. Nicky, Logan and Landry are all taken, and something shocking happens, something so tragic that it stuns all the alphas and unites them in their need for revenge. With violence and intrigue swirling around him, Marco has to rely only on his instincts and his ingenuity. He needs to discover who his allies and his enemies really are if he and Nicky are to make it out of this alive.
Marco, former alpha of the Dark Hollows pack, stretched and yawned as he stood guard over his camp while Nicky and the others slept. He looked up at the moon still hanging over him and wished for dawn.
It might not have been all that necessary to keep watch, but he felt safer doing it. He knew Brady, the new alpha of the Dark Hollows pack, would be coming after them soon, particularly considering the fact that when they left, Marco had taken the man Brady had claimed for his mate.
“Brady will be coming, you know,” Ian had told him earlier that evening. “He’s not going to let Landry get away.” Marco acknowledged the truth of that. If it had been Nicky, he’d have gone to the ends of the earth to find him and bring him back.
Something about Ian suddenly showing up in camp and asking for forgiveness bothered Marco though. During the last blow-up with the pack, Ian had shocked him by not immediately taking his side. If it had been Casey who hadn’t supported him, he might have understood it better. Though they were close enough now, Marco and Casey had a contentious relationship over the years since Casey had mated Rory, Marco’s nephew. But then it was difficult for two alphas to ever agree on much of anything.
Still, a bit surprisingly for Marco, it had been Casey who backed him up when he left the pack and who left right along with him in protest. Neither of them had made a big deal about it since then, but Marco had been moved by his loyalty. Ian, on the other hand, had balked at Marco’s refusal to just go along with the council “for the good of the pack.” Ian was the strongest beta he had ever known or even heard about. He might have been an alpha, if not for his tendency to overthink everything. His loyalty to the pack had always been commendable, but in Marco’s opinion, his first loyalty should have been to him. He was only now realizing that it wasn’t, and the knowledge stung more than he would have thought.
Marco huffed out an angry breath. It was he who got to decide what was for the good of the pack and no one else. Certainly not any damn council who only served at all because he allowed it. The council members, and yes, Ian, had been insubordinate and disloyal in the extreme, and he had to admit it hurt, not to mention making him furious. He wouldn’t—couldn’t forgive that.
Marco still had fond memories of old times when he and Ian had gone hunting together under a yellow summer moon. That was back in the days when they were younger and Marco would have believed Ian would always be his advisor and his best friend—always have his back, no matter what. He was trying hard to remember those times now.
Ian had shown up in camp earlier in the evening, asking for forgiveness for turning against Marco in support of the more conservative faction in the pack. Now he’d come back, expressing his deep regret and asking to join Marco’s new pack, and—for old times’ sake—Marco had allowed him to stay.
He knew Ian had been upset over his mate, Logan, and that his betrayal wasn’t personal, but damn, it certainly felt that way. The trust Marco had in Ian had taken years to build, and only a few seconds to destroy. It wasn’t fair, but it was true, nonetheless, and Marco was trying hard to overcome his feeling of resentment toward his oldest friend.
“How does it make you feel?” Marco had asked him. “Knowing that another wolf wants to kill your mate?”
Ian had shifted his weight uncomfortably. “How do you think it makes me feel? I’m here with you, aren’t I?”
Yet Marco was still sitting here brooding. Wondering why it had taken Ian so long to make that choice. Marco shook his head, choosing to let it go. For now. There would be time to have this discussion later when he had Nicky and the others safe.
He was ready to face Brady and the rest of the pack if it came to a fight. They weren’t without allies and he knew the other packs would stand with him. Zack and Gavin’s packs at least. Cade hadn’t been enthusiastic about it, but Marco knew he would support him if it came to a fight. Cade’s pack was small, and he was being overly protective, but since his brothers Connor and Landry had joined Marco, Cade’s loyalty was a given. As for Marco’s former pack, they would be stupid to start a war over this thing, but if that’s what they wanted, they’d get one.
It had been over a hundred years since the packs had been at war with each other. Then it had been over territory and independence, but it had taken a terrible toll. Over half their number had been killed in the bloody conflict. The unprecedented violence of their battles had shocked all of them and no one wanted a repeat of that.
Marco would need Ian’s strength and counsel in the dangerous days and weeks to come, and he was happy for Logan’s sake that Ian had forgiven him and come to his senses. As for his own relationship with Ian—he was willing to try to regain some of what they had lost.
He still had Nicky, the source of his strength. Marco had never required the blood match to make him love Nicky. He carried his love for Nicky with him always, not as some mystical force stashed deep inside him, but strapped to his back like a weapon for all the world to see. Nicky was his courage and his endurance. He was his life force and absolutely necessary to his happiness. Earning Nicky’s love had never been easy. But then nothing worth having ever was.
Soon, he’d lie down beside Nicky and wake him up with long, slow kisses that would no doubt lead to more. With that thought in mind, he leaned back with a sigh and prepared to stand guard for another few hours until first light.