Richard Ponders joins the Tamang wolf pack when his younger brother, Crain, mates with one of its members. When the pack gathers to celebrate passing the alpha mantle from father to son, naming Abbott Tamang as alpha, Richard discovers his mate is part of the Tamang pack, too…and it’s the new alpha. Sensing unrest in the pack, Richard decides allowing the pack to settle is the safest thing for everyone. Unfortunately, the choice is taken from him when Crain asks him to come over and discuss more changes in pack dynamics, bringing him face to face with Abbott. Now, not only will Richard be fighting for a position in his new pack, he needs to fight for the trust of a man he’s been hiding from for weeks. Can he and Abbott come to terms? Or will the unrest in their pack tear them apart?
Abbott felt confusion flood him, but willing to listen before passing judgment—on what he had no clue, yet—he settled into a chair and motioned for Crain to go on.
“My old alpha, Preston, was a controlling man. Ruled with an iron fist,” Crain explained. “If you didn’t remain in step, you were punished. If you didn’t ask how high when he said jump, you were punished. Everyone walked on eggshells around him, cow-towing and on edge.” Crain took another sip, then frowned into his drink.
“The only thing Preston respected was strength…and since he was a pretty powerful wolf, there wasn’t anyone who could challenge him.” He fell silent for several seconds. His lips pressed together. Lifting his gaze, Crain actually met his gaze and clearly stated, “Richard is a damn strong wolf. He won Preston’s favor. He was an enforcer by the age of forty. Some people didn’t like that, so they used the fact that I’m gay to get me kicked out of the pack. We’re the only family each other has, and we’re pretty loyal. Richard followed when I had to leave, trying to protect me.”
Abbott tried to make sense of Crain’s words, wondering why he needed to know this. Rubbing his temple with two fingers, he slowly asked, “Are you telling me Richard is a young alpha, hovering on the outskirts of my pack?”
“No!” Crain almost shouted. He jumped to his feet and actually started pacing the floor. “No, Richard isn’t an alpha. He’s…” Crain growled low in his throat and shoved a hand through his hair. Swinging back around, the wolf stated, “He doesn’t want to lead. He just hates taking orders from those weaker than him.”
Frowning, his jaw clenching at this sudden, odd development, Abbott snapped, “Then, how come he hasn’t declared himself?”
Once again, Aaric and Crain exchanged a glance.
This time, Abbott growled, tired of their little mate secrets. “What the fuck, Aaric?” he snarled, zeroing in on his brother.
“Please,” Crain quickly cut in. “Please, wait. After everything Richard did for me, I couldn’t betray his trust. Please, just wait until he arrives.” Crain rung his hands as he glanced between Abbott and the door. “You’ll understand when he arrives.”
Abbott knew he wasn’t known as the most patient man…something he was working on. Clearing his throat, he downed the last swallow of his beverage and set the tumbler aside. “Very well.” He frowned at his brother. “Don’t make me eat my words about my faith in you.”
To that, Aaric chuckled low in his throat. “Oh, you won’t. You’ll like this surprise.”
Crain snarled at Aaric, whapping his chest with the back of his hand.
Abbott’s brows shot up. He’d never before seen Crain behave aggressively. What the hell is going on?
Before he could question more, the doorbell chimed. At the same time, someone knocked loudly—pounded really—on the front door. Evidently, Richard had arrived.
Crain leaped to his feet and scampered across to the front. He yanked open the door, mumbling, “Sorry for the crash landing.”
Abbott frowned at the odd comment. He watched Crain’s brother enter the room…and swallowed hard at the sexy hunk of wolf shifter—naked wolf shifter, indicating Richard had come in shifted form—that appeared in the hallway. Tall—maybe six foot two—broad-shouldered with thick muscles and well-defined arms and pecs—good Gods, is that an eight-pack?—even most shifters didn’t have that!
Richard had thick strawberry-blond hair, deep blue eyes, and a body any wolf shifter would be proud of.
However, it was the scent of the man that truly sent Abbott reeling. Heavy, masculine, and spicy flavors burst across Abbott’s senses. Even as Richard took the sweats Crain handed him, his head snapped around and he pinned his gaze on Abbott.
Abbott’s eyes widened as he peered into shocked, yet knowing, blue eyes. Then, Richard broke the stare and aimed a betrayed glare at Crain. The look told Abbott a couple things at once.
Richard Ponders was his mate…and Richard had known.