Home > Wolf Unbound (Cascadia Wolves #4)

Wolf Unbound (Cascadia Wolves #4)
Lauren Dane

Chapter One

Tegan ran. Heart bursting with the joy of the forest, with the elation of wolf, her paws hit the warm earth, claws scrabbling to keep balance as she rounded a curve and saw the edge of the land that was safe to be wolf in.

Collapsing at the base of a large tree, she stretched to rub her spine along the bark, a growl of pleasure darting from her muzzle. Sighing, she put her head on her paws and closed her eyes.

“Hey. You’re late.” He smiled up at her, blue eyes twinkling, short blond hair set off against sun-kissed skin.

Startled, she froze a minute. Watched as he sliced mushrooms with competent speed.

In three steps she was close enough to touch him. Feel the vibrant warmth at the back of his neck, the straw-colored softness of his hair tickling her fingers.

“Lucas.” His name tore from her painfully. “What?”

He put the cutting board heaped with vegetables aside and gave her a quick kiss.

“That’s all I can do.” Turning back to the sink, he began to peel potatoes. “God, I miss you. But you know what makes me saddest?”

“What are you doing here?” Impotent rage flooded her. “You’re dead!”

He put the potato down and dried his hands on a nearby towel. “I’m dead. But not here.” Warm fingers brushed her temple. “Or here.” Another fleeting brush over her heart. “In your memories and your heart I’m still alive. Our love lives on in your memories. But just because I’m dead doesn’t mean you have to be. I’ve been telling you that. Why haven’t you listened?”

She shook her head, tears sprang to her eyes and the pain of his loss welled up like a familiar ache. “The other dreams…were you trying to tell me?”

He nodded. “Okay the deal is, I can’t be here long. So listen to me, please, honey.

You’re wasting your life. Damn it, you’re wasting your heart. A heart I know has room to love again. I’d be so ashamed if my death was the reason you never moved on to love another man.”

“I…there’s only you. Why, Lucas? Why did you leave me?”

He closed his eyes and the room dimmed a bit. “I didn’t. It wasn’t like that. But there’s no more time. Tee, it’s coming and you have got to be ready. Lots of stuff. Big stuff. You can’t deal with it, may not survive it if you don’t let me go and move forward.”

She felt her consciousness begin to rise, fought it, moved toward him. He took her hands in his, kissing her fingertips. Her desperation faded into resignation and then calm flowed over her.

“I have to go. I’ll always be a part of you, Tegan. But you need to move on. It’s time.”

And she was alone in the forest. But the faint scent of him still rested on the air and for the first time in four years, when she walked back into the house wearing her human skin, she felt whole again.

“You know what, Lex? I think my time-out is over. I want to move back to my own house.” Tegan Warden continued to clean her weapon as she spoke to her brother, the Enforcer of Cascadia Pack.

“This isn’t a punishment for God’s sake! Tegan, we know Pellini is out there and looking for a way to hurt one of us. It’s not safe for you to be back at your house on your own.” Lex spoke through clenched teeth.

“Lex, by all that is holy, if I put coal in your ass it would turn into a diamond!

Loosen up! I’m twenty-eight years old. In case it hadn’t occurred to you, I’m a fu**ing werewolf guard on your damned Enforcer team. I can take care of myself.” She put her weapon back into the case and locked it.

Her sister-in-law, Nina, leaned against the counter and drank her coffee, watching them both.

“I think you should do what Lex says on this, Tee.” Cade came into the room and shoved Nina aside playfully, getting himself a cup of coffee.

“Of course you do, your ass is as tight as his. Look, I like being on my own. I only lived here because after Lucas…well it was a place to come and it was part of the job.

But now I have my own place. It’s filled with my own things. It’s where my bed is, and my sheets and my plates. No offense but I don’t want to live my life by committee anymore.”

“How’s she ever gonna get any action if she’s here anyway? God, you guys, she’s been alone for four years. It’s time she gets back out there and starts dating. She deserves a real life and you making her stay here isn’t going to keep her twelve years old.” Tegan couldn’t risk looking at Nina just then. Nina’s intuitiveness and insight were scary sometimes.

“It’ll just keep her from ending up dead!” Lex’s jaw clenched and unclenched.

Tegan stood and shook her head. “I’m not going to die if I’m not under your nose every minute of the day. I appreciate your concern, Lex. I love that you all want to keep me safe and protected but I don’t want that. I want to be on my own.”

“To have hot monkey love!” Nina joked.

Tegan rolled her eyes at her sister-in-law, suppressing a smile. “If I choose, yes.”

“Tegan, what’s gotten into you?” Lex didn’t wait for an answer as he turned back to his wife. “I can’t believe you’re taking her side on this, Nina.” He began to pace.

“There aren’t sides here, Lex.” Nina reached out and touched his shoulder and he stopped, leaning into her. “Let her go. It’s just twenty miles.”

Lex threw his hands up in the air. “Fine! No one listens to me. I’m only the Second and all. What would I know about security?”

Tegan squeezed his forearm and stood, picking up her weapon case. “I’ll be back for my shift at nine. My stuff is packed and in the car.” She walked out of the room.

It was silent for long minutes until Nina turned to Lex and Cade, who glowered at her from the table.

“She wants to move on. She needs to. Can’t you see that?”

“Did she tell you that? Because the woman who just walked out of here isn’t one I’ve seen in a very long time,” Cade said.

“You know she didn’t. She doesn’t tell anyone anything she doesn’t have to. But I have eyes. She’s lonely. I didn’t know Lucas but I do know what it’s like to have a mate.

I can’t imagine losing one. Worse having her anchor bond, Abe, mated and therefore unavailable to her romantically. Sure she didn’t lose her life when her mate died, but to not have the fallback of an anchor to replace the original mate bond would be difficult.

Like losing a mate twice over.

“But I have noticed her actually seeing men for the first time since I met her. She’s more…” Nina shrugged her shoulders, “…alive than I’ve seen her. I know you all say she was vivacious before Lucas was killed but she’s been on lockdown since I came into this Pack and I’ve seen her starting to open the doors a bit. This is good. Let her move on. My God, she’s only twenty-eight, she has time to find love again.”

“That’s what this is about? Her getting out to get laid?”

Nina narrowed an eye at Cade. “Hey, f*ck you. That’d be like me saying, so, this is about you not having a guard at your beck and call?Unfair and petty. This isn’t about her sex life but so what if it was? You know better and you’re all grumpy and talking like an ass because you’re worried about her. It’s your way.”

Cade harrumphed in her direction but Lex still glared.

Undeterred, Nina leaned back and sipped her coffee. “She’s getting back out to live her life. She’s been here living as a guard for all these years. She needs friends, she needs her own schedule and things to do. And she needs a man. Is it so wrong to want that?

Don’t you want that, Cade? Someone to snuggle with in front of the TV at night after your day is over? Someone you can take to dinner, who makes your heart beat faster?”

Problem was, Cade was more than a little in love with Nina. She probably shouldn’t have asked but these two males were myopic on the issue of the women they loved.

“I suppose the other females are in your corner on this?” Lex raised an arrogant brow at his wife, saving his brother from answering.

Nina stood with a slow smile. “Lex, my most luscious Scooby, you want to protect everyone. It’s who you are. And your big dumb brother too. I haven’t consulted the Warden women but if I did, I’m sure they’d all agree Tee needs this. Let her have it or I’ll kick your ass.”

Lex sighed and sat back in his chair, eyeing Nina appreciatively. “You owe me.”

“Like that’s a punishment?” She laughed as she left the room.

“Keep an eye on her, Lex.” Cade’s voice was low.

“I already had a better security system put in at the house and her car has bullet proof glass and reinforced doors.”

Cade patted his brother’s arm. “Good.”

Tegan walked into the front doors of Wild Ginger and saw her sisters already seated with Nina. Waving, she moved to sit with them.

“Thanks for getting my back with Lex and Cade last week.” Tegan smiled at Nina.

“Well if I’d been doubting it was the right choice I’m convinced now. You look great!” Nina grinned.

“You do. Man, Tee, I don’t think I’ve seen you in makeup in—”

Tegan interrupted her twin sister, Megan. “Four years. I know. I’m working through it.”

“What happened? Why the sudden turn around?” Their oldest sister, Layla, looked up from her menu.

Out of all her siblings, Tegan was closest to Layla. It was Layla who’d held her as she wept when they’d come with news of Lucas’s death inAfghanistan . Layla who helped her choose the casket and the headstone. Layla never pushed, she just let Tegan deal with it in her own way and that meant so much to her. Layla truly listened to Tegan in her grief. While others tried to fix it, Layla had a mate, she’d known there was no fixing it. Layla never compared how Tegan was before the death to the way she was afterward. No one but Layla seemed to understand that a part of her died that day when those uniformed officers had come to her door.

But it was time to live again.

“I had three dreams in the last month and one a year ago. Lucas was in all of them.

The first ones were sort of hazy, but I got the feeling he was telling me something. The one I had two weeks ago was clear. We were in the kitchen of our old house and he was peeling potatoes. He turned to me and he told me to move on. He said that I was wasting my life and my heart and that he would be ashamed if his death was the reason I never found love again.” She stopped, hands trembling a bit as she took a sip of water.

“Anyway, he said it was coming. A bunch of big stuff and that I had to be ready for all of it. Told me to live my life again and that love was out there and a piece of him would always be there but it was time to let him go. And so I have. Or I’m trying. I’ll always love him. He was my mate. But I went out two nights ago. And I liked it. I’ve had dinner with our old friend Ryan and his boyfriend. It feels like what I’m supposed to do.”

The women, her sisters, all leaned forward and touched her. In that way of wolves, they gave comfort and support through caresses and hugs and then broke away.

Unshed tears shone in the eyes of everyone at the table. “You’re so strong. I love you, Tegan.” Megan’s voice was shaky but clear.

“Ditto.” Nina used her napkin to dab her eyes.

“Yep,” Lay agreed. “But what did he mean when he said it was coming? Love?”

Tegan sighed. “I don’t know, Lay. Partly, yes. But something else and I think it might have something to do with Pellini.”

The table silenced for long moments until Nina said, “Then we’ll have to be ready.

And then we’ll kill him and he’ll stop being a threat to the people I love.”

“Amen,” the others echoed.

Chapter Two

Tegan Warden walked confidently into the club’s front doors. In the months since she’d moved back to her house she’d found solace in a few things and the Club De Sade held one of them. Tonight, her fiery red hair cascaded around her face and shoulders in fat curls, in contrast to the sleek black lace-up vest she wore, br**sts nicely pouring over the top. A creamy expanse of her stomach showed just above the low waist of her leather pants. High-heeled boots completed the outfit.

“Yo, Tegan! Honey, you look fine tonight!” Max, the nearly seven-foot-tall bartender, whistled low as she approached.

A smile curved her lips. “Oh Max, why can’t you play on my team?”

“Because my team is better.” Max’s partner and the owner of the club, Ryan Post, hopped onto the stool next to where she stood. “It’s been a week. You promised to call me! How are you this evening, buttercup?” He kissed her cheek when she leaned down to hug him.

“I’m looking for someone to play with. It’s been a very rough week. Pellini seems to be moving again. Big time Pack politics and my brother, ugh! He’s all up in my business now. I love him, you know that, but Lex could drive a saint insane.”

“Now, don’t get me wrong, I love male werewolves. They’re terrific in bed, but they are a bit…overbearing sometimes.” Ryan winked and grinned. The gleam of one of his incisors marked his otherness. The Club De Sade was run by vampires, which was fine with Tegan. It was private, membership only and those who were allowed in were extensively screened. It was safe for paranormals to play there, that’s what she was always concerned with.

“Human or Were? Vampire perhaps?” Ryan asked.

“No wolves! The politics of dealing with a wolf who’s lower in Pack rank is too annoying. Other than that, I want someone who can wield a flogger with expertise, Ryan.

The last time I came in, the Were who flogged me had the worst hand ever. Like he’d never even seen a flogger before. And honey, I do not want to educate a Dom. I’m not a tutor for God’s sake.”

Ryan laughed. “Hmm. Well, we’ve got a relatively new member. I’ve seen him in action a few times. Human. Quite yummy. He’s looking for a regular submissive though.”

“Regular?” A shiver went through her and she flashed onto her dream. She knew she got her belief in that sort of stuff from her grandmother but she felt like Lucas was there, pushing her.

“Get that note of terror out of your voice, Tegan. You admitted that you wanted to move on. He wouldn’t want you to be alone for so long. You were meant to be cherished.” Ryan and Lucas had been good friends. In fact, Tegan and Lucas had gotten involved in D/s through Ryan. Ryan had been a regular fixture in her life until Lucas’s death and then she didn’t see him very often, although he kept in regular contact. When she’d shown up at his and Max’s apartment three months before, he’d welcomed her back into the world with a big hug and a glass of wine.

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