up and challenge for dominance on a pack run. If I couldn’t find anyone to out-alpha him, he’d assume my pack and I’d have no choice but to submit to him. A pack needed two leaders, and it especially needed a male alpha. I could exert my will over the men to a certain extent, but in the end, they’d constantly test dominance, and the moment I failed to dominate one of them, I’d be under him in all ways.

That was how it worked.

I hated how things worked.

The Windows chimes sounded on my computer as it booted up and I tapped in my password with shaking fingers. That asshole Roscoe had known just how to bug me, to make me tremble with hatred and loathing.

Never had I felt so helpless and out of control.

My email dinged and I felt the dread well up again. Not email too? The messages in my box, however, were safe. A few emails checking in from the pack, and one from Midnight Liaisons. Probably my password or something.

When I clicked on it, though, I saw a personal message from Ms. Ward-Russell.

Ms. Savage, it read. All profiles have been updated with pack ranking. If you do a search for ‘wolves’ you should see all candidates with that designation and their ranking. I hope this helps you. Good luck and I will check back in a few days to see how things are going. – Bathsheba.

Well, well. Bathsheba had included a link to the Midnight Liaisons website at the bottom of the email and I clicked on it. The site itself was nondescript and comprised of blue tones and a familiar unity symbol that I recognized as the Alliance symbol. I typed in the username and password she’d assigned me and it moved into the website, displaying a list of featured profiles for the week. A harpy, smiling tremulously for the camera. A vampy- looking cat shifter. A were-boar that matched his creature – stout and hairy. Ugh. Nothing that appealed to me.

I clicked on the ‘My Profile’ link at the top. Ugh again. My hair looked unkempt and my eyes had dark circles under them. I’d lost too much weight and my collarbones stuck out. And men were supposed to look at this and want to date me? The woman in the picture looked skittish and strung out.

I’d noticed that Bathsheba had thoughtfully left my own pack ranking off my profile – I sensed that was a deliberate measure for privacy, and I thanked her mentally for it. Clicking on the search engine, I began to type in my criteria.

Male (duh). Werewolf. I left age, marital status blank – those didn’t matter half as much as finding an alpha that wouldn’t rape me and try to destroy me if he got a hold of my pack. I’d take an old geezer with a wife any day, just as long as I got to stay with my pack. Just as long as we were together. I could learn to be subordinate. I could learn to like a threesome.

I guess.

It was the subordination part that was really sticking in my craw. Even the thought of being subordinate to another alpha like Roscoe made me ill.

The hourglass on my cursor turned slowly, and I stared at a hair removal pop-up ad. A joke? It didn’t matter – two seconds later, thirteen profiles popped up on screen with small text boxes. The first one had a tiny picture attached to it, so I clicked on the profile.

The guy in the picture seemed decent looking – a bit more gray and whiskery than I’d care for, but he seemed stout and well-muscled (unless all that extra flesh was fat). His profile said he was in Texas, though I didn’t recognize him from any of the nearby packs. Not that we got along with any of those, mind you. Still, the man had a kind face, he wasn’t related, and he wasn’t Roscoe. He had potential.

There was a small flashing button at the bottom that said “New!” next to the field labeled ‘Pack Status’.

Drat. He was a beta. A strong second in command, but not what I was looking for. I closed the profile and moved to the next one. I had to have an alpha. I already had a bunch of boys that would make a great beta.

After flipping through several more profiles, I came to a rather irritating conclusion. Every wolf knew that there was only one beta in every pack – the second in command to an alpha – and yet every guy I’d clicked on so far had listed ‘Beta’ as his pack standing. In other words, they were big fat liars, just like when they listed a height of six foot (when they clearly were not) and ‘packing a little extra baggage’ when clearly the extra baggage could kill a small horse.

Sigh.

I did run into one guy that was brave enough to list himself as just a ‘pack member’, but he also stated that he wasn’t looking for another wolf. That was just as well – I’d have had to have a serious talk with any one of my pack that put their profile up for this ridiculous service.

Of course, I had to eat those words a few moments later when I ran across Len’s profile (also listed as beta, which he clearly was not). I made a mental note to tan his hide the next time I saw him.

My next two profiles did not have pictures. I took those to be a bad sign. Still, I was getting desperate, so I clicked on the next one. More of the same – beta, beta, beta. Maybe this had been a stupid idea after all.

The last, however, made my breath catch.

There was no picture, but the age was 29 – 5 years older than me. The description said six foot (again) and lean.

Best of all, the status had a big fat capital “A” in it.

Did that mean what I thought it meant?

I clicked on more information on his profile. Wasn’t local. From South Carolina, recently moved out to Texas. Well, wasn’t that a stroke of luck. Maybe he’d stay around if I offered him the head of my pack.

Did I really want to do that? I stared down at the phone number listed on the page, the personal stats blurring in front of my eyes. None of that mattered if he could keep my pack safe. What if he was worse than Roscoe?

I greedily scanned the profile, looking desperately for more information. Star Sign: Taurus. Who cared? Personality: Laid back, easy-going, friendly. Looking for: a like-minded woman.

Well shit. This guy was all wrong. First of all, I didn’t know a single alpha that was ‘easy going’. And if he was looking for a like-minded woman? It wouldn’t be me. Stubborn as a mule was more like my personality type. He was probably lying about his pack status.

Still, I had to know.

I flipped open my cell, dialed the number. It went directly to voicemail, and I lost my nerve. I clicked my phone off before leaving a message and blew out a deep, nervous breath. I needed a drink of water. My mouth was so dry I felt like I’d start panting.

I moved away from the computer and stripped off my jeans as I did, tossing them down in the already messy hallway. I hadn’t done much today except go to the dating agency, but I still felt exhausted both mentally and physically. It was the first time I’d gone out since Cash’s death, and it had drained me.

I needed a drink of water, and then maybe a nap.

My phone buzzed, but I chose to ignore it. Whoever called me, I sure wasn’t interested. I put the phone down and left it.

Distracted by the thoughts of who could be calling me, I missed the cloying scent in my kitchen – the faint undercurrent behind all the heavy stink of dried flowers – until I was almost upon it.

Then, I gagged.

There in the center of my kitchen floor lay all my lingerie. Bras, panties, and stockings had been tossed together into a neat little pile. And the neat little pile had been ‘marked’ with semen. Repeatedly. So many times that the semen left milky trails on the tile on the floor.

And amidst those trails, someone had bent down and drawn a heart in the thick fluid.

A message for me. I knew from who - Roscoe.

Disgusting. I choked back vomit, looking away. He’d broken into my house and left me this rather drippy message as a clear reminder that I wasn’t safe from him. That I couldn’t hide out even in my own house.

And judging by the lingering scent in the air and the…wetness of the message, he’d been here recently.

He planned on taking over my pack. Taking over me. He’d challenge the boys, and anyone that came close to matching him in domination? He’d run them off, or worse. I thought of Spence and Len and baby Eddie, barely 8 months old. They’d be in danger. It’d be worse for the girls; they wouldn’t be safe from him. I wouldn’t be safe

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