EXCERPT: Changing Paths, Lusting Wild 4

changingpaths_9781419949678_msr4 of the Lusting Wild series.

Harmony, Moon-Denied, is unable to shift to animal form. She swallows her pride to return to her Pack for her daughter’s sake. The moody teenager might be Moon-Called—a true shapeshifter. Now Harmony fights the instant heat she feels for a scarred, sexy shifter. Gareth is all that’s good and bad about the Pack.

Gareth, second in the Pack, has made peace with being a loner. No shifter female will have him because of his scars—internal and external. He fights his attraction but he’s consumed by a burning desire for this amazing woman. How can he convince Harmony that she’s his mate?

Everything has to wait as the Wisconsin winter closes in. When Moonlust takes control, need and desire overcome everything else. As Harmony seeks her truth, her past encroaches, threatening everything she holds close.

Inside Scoop: Contains an intense and violent confrontation that illustrates Harmony’s protectiveness over her Pack.

A Romantica® paranormal erotic romance from Ellora’s Cave


Chapter One

Gareth glanced at the clock in the dash of his truck then pressed a little harder on the accelerator. This was the first Gathering with Micah and Olivia back. Gatherings happened even without the Alpha but it wasn’t the same. Micah, Alpha of the Wild Haven Lodge Pack, a massive man with an even bigger presence had definitely been missed.

Even though Olivia was a petite woman her presence usually filled the lodge too. They were the perfect Alpha couple. Under their guidance the Wisconsin wolves had flourished and grown. Hell, Micah had even named him as one of his seconds, practically unheard of for a wolf scarred as he was to rise up in a Pack.

The Gathering would be well attended. As the Pack’s main social event, most wolves made an appearance. No one would miss it without a solid reason—such as death or dismemberment. Word had spread quickly that the Alpha couple were coming home. Besides, Gatherings were more than social get-togethers. They were an opportunity to show off in front of the Alpha, to meet and greet old friends, possibly making new ones, to find mates or even temporary bed partners. Well, for some members of the Pack anyway.

As for him he’d just be happy to have Micah back—large and in charge. Standing right at six and a half feet tall, Micah was definitely large and most definitely in charge. His mate Olivia could hold her own better than any other female he knew. He’d missed them but knew the trip to meet Olivia’s family was important.

He remembered how hard it had been for Olivia to accept her own abilities. Eventually though they had found real happiness as a family. Then Micah had tracked down Olivia’s true family as a Christmas gift. They’d gone to visit some of Olivia’s long-lost relatives then detoured to New Orleans to pick up their daughter Talia who’d been spending time with the Compound Pack. It still surprised him that Micah allowed her to go there, but since he shared custody with that Pack’s Alpha it wasn’t really such a shocker. Micah and Frank, the other Alpha, had an uneasy truce but they both cared for the child.

Still, the Alpha couple had missed three Moon Gatherings. As one of the seconds to the Alpha, Gareth had attended the Gatherings but he had to admit he’d relied on the other lieutenants for the social aspect. Just wasn’t his thing to be the handshaking, back-slapping type. Still, he didn’t want to be late. Not only would it be the height of Pack rudeness, he wasn’t going to miss out on greeting his Alpha or his Alpha’s family, which now included an infant son.

Luckily they had timed their arrival for this Full Moon Gathering. Full Moons were the best, in his opinion. More running, less yapping. Every wolf in the area who could attend would be there. Not that they had to rely on the moon to call their wolves but everything was stronger under the full moon. He was grateful for that.

He loved the crisp scent of fall but chose to leave the windows up. He was anxious to see all of them again. After all, it had been Olivia’s acceptance of his scarred face with and without his eye patch that had eased him into his place in the Pack. She’d been the first female in a very long time to treat him as if he wasn’t damaged goods. He knew he’d scared her a bit when they’d first met but he’d grown used to that reaction from females. Even Micah’s insistence on his acceptance in the Pack had only worked when he backed it up with his massive presence. But Olivia’s place as the Alpha’s mate held a lot of sway—no one wanted to piss her off.

Slowing to take the last hairpin turn before the entrance to the lodge, he swore under his breath when the first deer jumped into the road. Slamming on his brakes, he turned the wheel so that his truck slid to a sideways stop in the middle of the road, and he watched the spindly legged doe bound into the woods. Still he waited.

Sure enough, three more came bursting out, following the white tail of the first. They moved gracefully across the road then disappeared into the trees. Had he not already been late he’d have shifted to give chase. Olivia had developed quite a taste for venison since moving to Wisconsin. Her mate never objected to a gift.

Gareth grinned, thinking of the hunt as he put the truck back in gear. Straightening out to finish his journey, he considered the time. Instead of going to his own place he’d just park at the Wild Haven Lodge. He could come back for the truck later.

Cresting the small hill, he realized his plans weren’t going to go the way he wanted. Story of his life, really. Nothing ever went according to plans if he made them. The dilapidated car leaned on the shoulder of the road, looking for all the world like some injured animal. Slowing to stop behind the car, he watched as the person struggling with the tire iron turned toward his truck.

Yep, he was definitely going to be late. Plus he couldn’t even send up a howl to notify the Pack. It might be rude to be late but it was far worse to reveal your true nature to a stranger. That endangered the whole Pack. He took his position as one of the seconds seriously.

He put the truck in park then turned off the ignition. He stepped out of it just as the man…no…woman faced him. No man had features that delicate or a mouth that immediately fed into his fantasies. She stood, bundled up to her chin, holding the tire iron almost as if it were a weapon. Moving slowly, he let his hair fall forward to cover as much of the patch over his eye and the scars on his face as possible. He held up both hands to show he was unarmed. “Need a hand?”

“Yes, please. I can’t get these lug nuts loose.” She stepped back as he moved toward her, holding the tire iron out to him but keeping as much distance between them as possible.
He saw the California plates on the car before he glanced up at the woman again. No wonder she looked as though she was wrapped up for a blizzard. Though the temperature was in the forties the wind had a definite bite.

The door on the passenger side of the car opened as another bundled-up figure got out. The hair peeking out from under the knit cap was a bright pink, the facial features close enough to the other woman’s to let him know these two were related. Had to be her daughter judging from the half-pint size.

“Heading to the lodge?” He took the tire iron then turned his attention to the flat tire. He could have it changed in no time but he was still going to be late. Setting himself to his task, he noticed that the woman then the girl lifted their heads, nostrils flaring. Damn, they’re shifters. He did have the worst luck in the world.

They would probably consider him damaged goods as did most other females. The scars on his face and his blind eye practically guaranteed that. He bit back a very unsociable growl. The woman didn’t have a mated scent on her, which meant the unattached males in the Pack would be swarming in no time. She smelled good. Damn good. Gareth shoved his immediate male reaction to her down—hard.

“No, the reservation. Are you from here?”

Nodding, he made quick work of loosening the lug nuts. He angled away as he focused on a mental cold shower. His hard cock was just his body’s way of betraying him. She might smell like the best summer afternoon but no way would he go sniffing around her. He’d suffered enough rejection from the shifter bitches in the area, he didn’t need it from an outsider too. His tone was flat. “Yeah, I work at Wild Haven Lodge. This’ll be done in no time if you want to wait in my truck. It’s still warm.”

Not looking at them or waiting for a response, he removed the flat, set it against the rear bumper of the car. Pulling the spare out, he groaned. He bounced it on the asphalt then shook his head. The damn thing was just as flat as the tire he’d just taken off the car. Looking toward the cab of his truck, he saw that the females had taken him up on his offer. He saw the dismay cross the adult female’s face as she realized the spare wasn’t going to help her.

He rolled it to the back of his truck, tossed it into the bed then went back to grab the other tire as well. The woman got out of his truck on the driver’s side.

“What are you doing?”

“Your tire and your spare are flat. I’ll take you to the reservation then tomorrow I’ll take your tires into town. I’d do it tonight but there won’t be a garage open.” He went to move around her but she stepped in front of him again.

“That’s not necessary. If you’ll just take us to the res I can take care of the rest.” There was something in her voice that set his fur up. So cool and distant as if she were too good for him.

Figured she wouldn’t want his help with anything. Just like the rest of the females around here. “It’s not a problem. I make regular runs into town. I can get someone from the res to go with me to bring your car to you.”

He took a deep breath then froze. Yeah, she smelled of shifter but the delicious scent was more female, less shifter. Even Olivia had scented shifter more strongly. This female barely had a trace of shifter in her. He met her gaze. Her eyes widened as she stepped back from him. A flash of something danced in her eyes. Was it fear? Anger? Disgust at his scar? He didn’t know. He didn’t care either.

Damn females. Even the ones who weren’t full shifter disdained him. Dropping his head again so that his hair swung forward, he turned back toward her car abruptly. “Do you need your bags or anything?”

“I can—”

He cut her off. “I’ll get your stuff. No reason to leave it here. Just get back in the truck. I don’t have time to argue about something that’s a no-brainer.”

He knew he sounded curt but some things couldn’t be helped. Just his luck to get stuck with the most beautiful female he’d seen in a long time and have her scared shitless of his ugly mug. Not that it wasn’t a reaction he hadn’t had before. Most females ignored him or shrank away from him. After adjusting the patch over his sightless eye, he grabbed the suitcases she’d indicated then slammed the trunk shut.

“Where on the res do you want me to take you?”

“Do you know Willow Johnson? Her house will be fine. Thank you for stopping. I didn’t realize the spare was flat.”

“I know where Willow lives. No problem.” He noticed that the girl hadn’t said anything, just sitting sullenly in the truck, letting the woman talk. He’d heard some buzz about Willow’s niece coming back. Maybe this was her. He wanted to talk to her, anything to break the current silence, but wasn’t sure what to say. Instead he concentrated on driving, bypassing the turnoff to the lodge, heading for the entrance to the reservation instead.

The silence in the cab wasn’t a comfortable one. He kept to his side of the truck as much as possible. Having her so near was torture this close to a Gathering. The urge to fight or fuck was strong due to Moonlust caused by the full moon. Every time he went around a curve in the road her scent wafted toward him. Honeysuckle and sunshine. She reminded him of a summer day, warmth and being a kid again. The girl on the other side of her reminded him of another flower, he couldn’t remember the name of it, but it was small and white. The daughter’s scent was definitely flowery, deeper and richer than her mother’s. It made him think of a run in the woods at night.

He couldn’t help but be glad they were headed to the reservation rather than the lodge. Being around them made him edgy. He wanted to ask if she was coming to the Gathering but figured she might think it was a play for her.

His Wolf growled. He shoved the rising energy back. This sudden lust wasn’t what he wanted but damn it, he was attracted to her. Since there was no way a shifter from the res, officially part of the Pack or not, would have anything to do with someone scarred and definitely not Native American, he was just setting himself up for failure…again.

Harmony took another deep breath then closed her eyes. Rain sat beside her, sullen and angry as was her normal routine lately. On the other side the shifter male caused her heartbeat to increase while every hormone in her body seemed to scream. Even her nipples tried to thrust forward. Luckily they were held in by three layers of clothes, including her coat. She knew he could be dangerous to one of her kind.

The man who’d been Alpha when she’d been growing up here had told the young many stories about what happened to the Moon-Denied. Tales of Packs who had driven the Denied out. Those who had even slaughtered their own Denied out of shame. Having Packmates who failed to shift was a mark of weakness in some Packs.

There had been rumors about groups of Denied banding together for protection. Harmony realized some of the stories had been the type to scare young shifters into paying attention during their shifting classes, but still, there was always a kernel of truth in any boogeyman story.

At the very least he probably despised her for her inability to actually shift. His kind always did. Big, strong, gorgeous shifter men who could have any female they wanted? Those types never looked at a Denied except to shun them, at least in her experience. Coming back to the reservation was probably the dumbest thing she’d ever done.

No, leaving with Tom had been the dumbest thing she’d ever done. Returning was supposed to rectify that first nearly fatal mistake.

When she’d received the phone call from Aunt Willow she’d thought at first it was some cruel joke. They didn’t really want her back, did they? She’d reached out to a distant cousin, trying to find someone to help Rain through what she knew was coming. Going through your first shift was hard enough. Having a mother who couldn’t shift with you, couldn’t show you what you needed to know, that was damn near impossible. That cousin had contacted Willow.

Rain needed Pack. They’d just have to accept her mother as well.

She glanced at their rescuer again. His hair had swung forward, hiding the patch as well as some of the scarring on his face. She had to wonder what kind of accident he’d been in. It was obvious shifting to his wolf form hadn’t healed the injury. Maybe it had been too severe? Though she’d never heard of that, it didn’t mean it wasn’t possible.

As he made the turn into the drive leading to the gates of the reservation, she felt her own tension increasing again. She’d hoped they could get to Willow’s without having to announce themselves to the entire reservation, but as soon as they passed through the gates she knew that wasn’t going to happen.

She cursed silently at the sight of the patrol car on the side of the road complete with a familiar man leaning against it. His arms crossed over his chest guaranteed he wasn’t pleased about something. If it was her then the entire population of the res would know she’d returned. And why.

The truck slowed then the driver—damn, what had he said his name was?—rolled his window down.

“Hey, Pete.”

“Gareth. Figured you’d be at the lodge by now. I’d be there myself but I have a couple of deputies out sick. He’s back you know. You shouldn’t be late, niijii.”

Gareth, it was an unusual enough name that she should have remembered it. From what the deputy had said she realized just how much of an inconvenience she and Rain were, again.

Uncle Pete had never neglected to show her just how little he valued her. Why would this time be any different? Leaning forward, she tuned back into the conversation.

“Yeah, ran into some folks with trouble so I stopped to help them out. Their car’s just up the road. I’ve got two tires in the back of the truck, so I’ll take them to the garage in town tomorrow.”

“Hello, Uncle Pete.”

The flash of surprise on both male faces wasn’t lost on her. Pete’s was masked a bit more quickly.

“Niece. I’d heard you were coming back. Is that your young?” His voice wasn’t cool but it wasn’t warm either. She’d classify it more as careful.

“Yes.” She turned toward Rain, noticing that she’d finally removed the earbuds that had been a permanent part of her wardrobe for the past six months. “Rain, I’d like you to meet your great-uncle, Pete Standing Elk. Uncle Pete, this is my daughter Rain Softly Johnson.”

She ignored Rain’s muttered protest when she said her middle name. The child—despite her protests, she was still a child—hated her full name. Harmony bitterly thought it hadn’t been her choice either. She’d been forced to sign the filled-out birth certificate. Tom had made it clear that any protest would incur his anger. At the time, she’d been doing everything to avoid that. It was too late now to change her daughter’s name anyway.

“Welcome home, young Rain. Harmony, you took the family name back?” That barb struck right where it had been intended. Pete had never made any secret of the fact that he disliked Tom. He hadn’t trusted his “citified” ways or his promises to her. Now of course she wished she’d listened, but that was the past. No way would she allow Pete or anyone else to hurt her daughter with words, or in any other fashion.

“Yes, as a condition of the divorce I took my name back and then had Rain’s changed as well.”

“All for the best.” Pete turned his attention back to Gareth, effectively dismissing the niece he hadn’t seen in almost two decades along with her child whom he hadn’t met until now. That discourtesy told her just how opposed he was to her return. “I’ve spoken to Micah to let him know I will be there late tonight. I’ll make sure the car gets towed to Bill’s shop.”
With that, he tipped his head to them then turned back toward his patrol car. Feeling his attention, she glanced at Gareth. “I guess he’s still pretty angry with me for leaving the reservation.”

“Families are complicated.” He shrugged. The truck jerked back to life as he pulled away from the patrol car. His voice sounded tight as he steered it into a right-hand turn. “I’m sure Willow will be happy to see you.”

He didn’t say anything else, so neither did she. She just let her mind drift to the way things had been before she’d left the reservation with someone she thought was her Prince Charming. The fact that he’d turned out to be a total snake didn’t negate the one good thing he had done. He’d given her Rain.

Turning her attention back to her daughter, she took in her familiar features. As much as she could see herself in Rain’s looks she could see Tom’s stamp as well. She thought the blend made Rain beautiful. She just hoped bringing Rain back to the reservation could mend some of the fences she’d so carelessly torn down sixteen years ago.

They passed a clearing, then Willow’s house came into view. He stopped his truck a respectful distance away. He obviously visited a lot if he knew the Native ways. It was considered rude to just pull up to someone’s home and get out of the car without acknowledgement. Harmony filed that away for future thought. He definitely wasn’t of the People.

When Willow appeared in the doorway he pulled the truck a little closer as she gave the come-ahead. He put it in park. Her skin warmed when he looked at her. Something about his gaze made her simmer. She could feel that familiar pull in her belly—the one she hadn’t felt in a long time. It was just that the man was sinfully sexy. She didn’t want to simmer or think about sex with this stranger, so she reached across Rain to open the door so they could slide out.

“Thank you, Gareth.”

“I’ll get your bags.”

As they got out of the truck Willow stepped off the porch. Harmony smiled as her aunt came forward to greet them. For the first time since beginning this ill-fated journey Harmony felt that things might just work out for everyone involved.

Being enfolded in her favorite aunt’s warm embrace brought tears to her eyes. Tears she had refused to let fall on the trip here filled her eyes as she breathed in her aunt’s scent. Leaving her family had been hard, though honestly she’d frequently felt driven to do it.

Being one of the Moon-Denied, one of those who couldn’t shift despite a genetic predisposition to do so, wasn’t easy. Now she’d brought her daughter here to see if she’d passed on her own weakness or if Rain would be one of the lucky ones. One able to take another shape to run with the Pack. The one thing Fate had denied her.

“I’m so glad you’re here, Harmony. I’ve missed you so.” Willow cupped her face, staring hard at her. “You’ve changed.”

“Not that much. Aunt Willow, this is my daughter Rain. Rain, this is your great-aunt, Willow Johnson.” She leaned into her aunt’s hand for a brief moment, craving that touch.
Even the Moon-Denied needed the comfort of physical reassurance. She’d missed that.

“Welcome, Rain. You are the image of your mother. Come in, come inside. I’ve arranged for you to live in the old Fox cabin but for now you should come in and eat. Uncle Jake is at the lodge, he’ll be back by midnight.” With that, Willow looked at Gareth.

“You should be on your way, young one, the Pack will be gathering. He’s back. You’re already late but he’ll understand.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll just drop these on the porch.” He indicated the suitcases he’d removed from his truck. She watched as he strode up to her aunt’s house. After setting their stuff down on the porch by the front door, he started back toward his truck, obviously not intending to say anything else. She felt compelled to stop him. Reaching out, she touched his shoulder.

The way he jerked back made her wonder if he felt the same sizzling flash of awareness she did. But she discarded that foolishness. He just didn’t want one of her kind touching him. Her tone came out more formal than she’d meant it to.

“Gareth, thank you for stopping to help us. I don’t know how long we’d have been out there if you hadn’t.”

“No problem.” He nodded, once again letting his hair fall forward to cover his face. She felt a pang of sadness that this shifter felt it necessary to go to such lengths to hide his features. He was handsome, not in the traditional sense but there was just something about him that made her think of rubbing her body against his. Not that it mattered really.

It wasn’t just the fact that he was a shifter. She hadn’t caught a mated scent. Yeah, he was probably happily mated. Even if he wasn’t, no way he’d be interested in a Moon-Denied female with a kid. Talk about too much baggage.

“If you need me, Willow, just call. I know the Fox cabin could use some work, especially on the furnace. Enjoy your visit.” With that, he got back in his truck then left. She looked over her shoulder as she followed her daughter and aunt into the house but he never slowed or looked back. Feeling as though she’d missed something important, she sighed before she closed the door.

Gareth mentally chewed his own ass out as he left the reservation. Why had he bothered to offer his help? There were plenty of people on the res who could do the same work he could on the cabin. No need for Willow to call him and definitely no need to set himself up for any more trouble by getting involved with a res shifter. Though they all belonged to the same Pack, the Native population kept some distance between themselves and outsiders. So not being one of their tribe was a strike. Coupled with the fact that he hadn’t even been born in Wisconsin and had moved here without knowing anyone was a second strike. When they’d found out he had no intention of being part of the Pack, they were more than a little reluctant to have him around.

He’d grown up in a Pack, so he knew the ropes, the rules and ways of Packs. He’d been willing to accept being an outsider. Micah had changed that. Gareth hadn’t expected Micah to trust him as much as he did. Micah had given him a place, a job—even a chance. It had been that acceptance that had secured his position in the Lodge Pack. Still, he was of the Pack but he wasn’t of the People here.

Shaking all of that off, he concentrated on the Gathering to come. Everyone would probably already be in the clearing. It would be to his advantage to cut through the woods from here. He was late, disrespect enough for one of Micah’s seconds. No point in compounding that.

As soon as he cleared res land he pulled his truck off the road. Since Pete was on patrol he’d leave Gareth’s truck there until he could come back for it. Striding quickly into the woods, he moved just far enough into the cover of the trees so that he couldn’t see or been seen from the road then quickly stripped. He shivered a little with the cool evening air then bundled his clothes up to put them beside a big rock. They’d still be there when he got back.

Removing his patch last, he tilted his head, shaking his hair back and letting his shift begin. He felt the burn as his body reshaped itself from human to animal, felt his senses sharpen as his mind captured more of his surroundings. Being wolf made him happy in a way that being human never could. It was why he’d spent so much time in wolf form running with real wolves.

Tipping his head back, he gave that feeling voice, howling his joy out for all to hear. Answering howls reached him. He knew the Pack had indeed gathered. Spinning around to head deeper into the woods, he let the joy of simply running course through him. Here, in this form, in these woods, he was at peace with himself.

He preferred the pine needles and mulch breaking under his feet, the tree branches whipping by him, and the cold air bringing all the scents of the woods to his nose. His wolf senses were so much keener and the sightless eye wasn’t such a burden with his hearing and sense of smell so improved. Humans missed so much by not being able to breath in the deep pine of the forest combined with the crisp chill of snow on the air.

He made the clearing in moments, the scents of the Pack reaching him long before he saw any of them. Still, as he neared the center of the group, he could distinguish those who accepted him and those who did not. At this point, however, he’d focused his attention on two gray wolves in the very middle of the Pack.

Micah Keeps Vigil and his mate Olivia. He’d have known his Alpha anywhere just from the sheer size of the wolf. Dropping his head as he neared the mated pair, he tilted his head to one side, exposing his neck as was proper for anyone in the Pack when greeting the Alpha.
Micah nodded to him, touching his nose to Gareth’s neck in acknowledgement of his tribute. The Alpha’s scent filled his nostrils, calming him in a way only Micah could. Where have you been, Gareth? Talia was disappointed that you weren’t at the lodge to greet us.

I’m sorry, Micah. I’ll make it up to her. I had to go into town for some parts for one of the snowmobiles and then I stopped to help someone on the road. Turned out to be Pete’s niece. He also sends his apologies. He got stuck working tonight.

I know. He left a message for us. Greet Olivia, would you? She’s a little nervous about tonight. It’s her first Gathering since giving birth.

He dropped onto his belly in remorse. Not only hadn’t he been there to meet his Alpha’s daughter, he hadn’t even thought to ask about his Alpha’s son. With that foremost in his mind, he turned his attention to the female standing at Micah’s left shoulder. She touched her nose to his muzzle and whuffed air at him. He returned the greeting then opened himself to the Alpha female.

Welcome home, Olivia.

Gareth, you have no idea how happy I am to be back here. Talia was upset with you for not being there to meet us. You’ll have some apologizing to do there.

I know, I’m sorry. And how is Miakoda? I’m sure I won’t even recognize him.

You won’t! He’s growing so fast. And he’s such a good traveler. Oh have we got stories to tell you!

I can’t wait. Dropping his jaw open in their version of a wolfy grin, he backed up a bit so that some of the other late arrivals could greet their Alphas. He knew he’d definitely have some serious groveling to do with Talia.

Micah and Olivia’s adopted daughter had been scared shitless of him when she’d first met him, but now they were buddies. He’d taken her fishing a couple of times and let her help him with the sled dogs. When he’d given her pick of the litter of one of those sled dogs, the deal had been sealed. Talia had decided he was okay to have around. The little girl was one of his favorite people in the world.

Moving through the Pack, he could feel animosity from his right and instinctively turned his body to meet the threat. He barely held back his snarl.

Same old, same old from the three wolves growling softly at him. They hadn’t gotten over the last ass-whipping he’d doled out and it looked as if he’d be doing it again. Those three just didn’t understand that as long as he had Micah’s favor and was one of the seconds in the Pack that they’d never be able to fully defeat him. Sure, they could hurt him, they had in the past, but they’d never be able to get rid of him, which was what they really wanted to do. He stared at them as they paced toward him.

He let out his own growl then, baring his teeth at them to let them know this was neither the time nor the place for their juvenile bullshit. A presence at his left let him know that another wolf had joined them. The three in front of him suddenly dropped to their sides then rolled, exposing their bellies. He knew without doubt that Micah was the wolf at his side. Even without the familiar scent, the submissive posturing of the three would have given it away.

Are we going to have to have another talk about this? If Micah had been in human form, Gareth knew one eyebrow would be raised and his normally stoic face would have been somewhat pinched-looking.

No, Micah. Everything’s fine. We’re all just glad you’re back, right boys?

He glared at the three, before letting his attention sharpen on Luke, the usual leader of that group. All of them were still whining a bit as they stayed on their backs. They didn’t answer him, just gave Micah his due as their leader. The middle one urinated just a bit, making Gareth’s inner jerk dance with pleasure. Yeah, they wouldn’t fuck with him anymore.

Blowing out some air, Micah turned and left. He waited just a moment then followed. He could still feel some anger, but most of it had waned in the face of their Alpha’s displeasure. They might not mind ganging up on him at a Gathering but there is no way in hell they’d dare to do it with Micah right there.

He turned his mind to enjoying the rest of the Gathering. For now he’d forget all about lesser wolves with mischief on their minds, females who smelled of honeysuckle, and sullen teenagers. For now he’d simply enjoy the night.