Red Rock Pass, Book One
this story appears in a print anthology
Keith Winston is tired of fighting. The war between werewolves and wizards rages on in Europe, but he’s come home to Red Rock, Montana in hopes of finding a bit of peace. Instead he finds more strife as he struggles against the pack’s dictates that he resume his place as the alpha’s right-hand man.
When he rescues a new wolf on the run, he knows his instant attraction to her could cause trouble. What he doesn’t expect is to find himself embroiled in another battle that goes against all his instincts—and his heart.
Abigail Adler learned about the existence of werewolves only when she became one. With her life threatened by a corrupt alpha, she flees to the only sanctuary she knows: Red Rock. While she’s grateful for the pack’s protection, she chafes under its unbreakable rules of conduct—except when it comes to submitting to the passion Keith stirs in her.
Then her tormentor kidnaps her sister in an attempt to lure her out of hiding. To save her, Abby and Keith must be willing to do the very thing that could get them all killed—break all of the rules.
Warning: Hot werewolf sex, violence, explosions, and a heroine wielding a makeshift implement of destruction.
Read an Excerpt
Keith’s alpha rocked back in his chair and watched the harried-looking man and his young daughter walk out the back door of the bar. Then he cast a weary glance at Keith. “It’s different now. Since you left, I mean. Shit like this happens all the time.”
He’d gathered as much, but hearing Gavin say it somehow made the situation more real, more desperate. “Maybe we shouldn’t have gone out into the world. Humans are a lot more cruel than we are.”
Gavin snorted and let his chair legs hit the floor with a thump. “I wish I could blame it on that. If the alphas were doing their jobs, it wouldn’t matter.” He reached out for his beer and drew a hand through his graying hair. “But they’re not just letting too much slide. They’re abusing the power.”
Keith turned a chair around and sank into it, folding his arms across the back. “Maybe the alphas have been corrupted by the human way. Take what you want and terrify anyone who tries to stop you.”
His alpha just shrugged. “What’s done is done. It’s up to the Lorekeepers now, unless we want to go out, guns blazing, and take over the world.” A tiny smile curled the edge of his mouth. “Sammie tells me I’m too old for that shit. And she’s right. War is for young men.”
War isn’t for anyone. Keith lifted a hand to rub at his chin, the rough stubble under his fingers reminding him he needed to shave. “Then I guess I’m not young anymore, because five years of it made me pretty damn tired.”
Gavin finished his beer and flashed him a knowing look. “Does that mean you’re going to stick around for a while? Maybe settle down?”
Maybe find a woman? Gavin didn’t say it, but he didn’t have to. Not when Keith had heard some variation on the refrain a hundred times. The past is past, or Kelly wouldn’t want you to be alone, or the more damning, You have a duty as a dominant.
That last one was what had finally driven him overseas, driven him to spend five years as a soldier in the battle between werewolves and wizards, where his only duty was fighting. He did have a duty as a dominant werewolf, one to guide and shelter and teach. A duty to protect. A duty that comes with too many damn strings.
“Hey, forget I said anything.” Gavin didn’t look the least bit sorry as he returned Keith’s steady gaze. “I don’t make people do things they don’t want to do, remember?”
“Yeah. I know.” Keith changed the subject. “That guy and his kid going to stay in the motel?”
He nodded. “I’ve granted them sanctuary until they can find a safe place to relocate. They can’t go back to Coeur d’Alene, not while that bastard alpha’s still in charge over there.” Gavin tapped his chin. “Who do we know up in British Columbia?”
“Manuel. We should send them to Manuel.” The voice came from the doorway to the back office, and it brought Keith to his feet in an instinctive gesture of respect. Though tall and extremely fit, the woman who stood there might not have seemed intimidating to the mundane eye, but her power swept through the room like a warm breeze and raised the hair on the back of his neck.
Samantha Hamilton walked in, her eyes focused on her husband alone. There were times when even being in the same room as the alpha pair made Keith feel vaguely voyeuristic, and this was one of them. Sam crossed the floor, a walkie-talkie in one hand, and the power that flowed with her found a focus, an answering echo in Gavin. For a brief moment, he could almost feel their emotions, taste the depth of their love in the energy that sparked between them.
Gavin frowned. “Is something wrong?”
Distracted by the magic, Keith hadn’t noticed the expression on Sam’s face. She looked worried, tense. A bad sign for a woman as hard as nails and afraid of next to nothing. She thumped the walkie down on the table and hooked a chair with her foot. “Yeah. Just got a call. Two kids left Helena on their way here, and Alan Matthews is apparently pissed enough at losing his newest girl that he’s sent men after them. Into our territory.”
Her husband bristled as he rose. “He wouldn’t.” It was a blatant challenge, one Keith knew Gavin couldn’t let slide. “Of course he would. Impertinent idiot.” He turned sharp blue eyes toward Keith. “Feel up to it?”
Of all the duties expected of him, this was the only one he felt capable of handling anymore. Keith checked both of his pistols before snapping them into their holsters. He nodded shortly as he shrugged into his shoulder rig. “Always. How far out do you think the kids are?”
Sam slid the walkie-talkie across the table to him. “They should have been here by now. They had a head start, and Justine said Alan didn’t realize they’d slipped out. The girl’s newly changed, one of Alan’s special picks.” Her lips twisted into a disgusted snarl, one Keith had to fight not to echo. “The boy’s one of Alan’s little whipping boys. No one thought he’d have the guts to try to get her out, I guess, even though she’s his friend. But he’s not strong enough to protect himself or her.”
“Get them here, Keith.” Gavin’s words were soft, but an unmistakable order. “Do what you have to do.”
For the seventh time in as many minutes, Abigail Adler checked her cell phone’s display. “Still no service.”
“I told you.” Dylan grunted as he tried to wrestle the blown tire off his car. “I don’t think you can use cell phones up here. Even if you got reception, the magic they use to keep humans out would screw it all up.” He spoke calmly, but the tension in his voice provoked a reaction she didn’t understand.
Abby took a deep breath and distracted herself by counting the lug nuts lying in the upturned hubcap. Finally, when she had her frustration under control, she spoke again. “Does anyone know where we are?” Do you know, Dylan? Please say yes.
The tension grew worse, prickling tangibly against her skin. “I told someone we were coming, but I didn’t exactly have time to call ahead and make hotel reservations, Abby.”
“I know.” She closed her eyes and leaned against the side of the car. “I know this wasn’t easy for you.” He’d put his life on the line to get her out of Helena, defying his alpha. It was something she could still barely wrap her brain around. “Thank you.”
“Don’t thank me,” he responded, his voice almost harsh. “It’s my damn fault you’re in this situation. My fault you’re–” He wrenched the tire free and sent it skittering back down the road in a show of temper and inhuman strength that would have shocked her a few weeks ago. “Damn it, I should have protected you before it happened.”
She closed her eyes again and tried to calm her pounding heart. “It’s not your fault.” He couldn’t have helped what happened. He couldn’t have stopped it.
Only a month earlier, Abby had lived a quiet life. She’d had work and family and friends, and she’d known nothing of Dylan’s secret. In the years they’d been friends, she’d known him as a funny, sensitive, compassionate man.
She hadn’t known Dylan Gennaro was a werewolf.
She’d met Alan Matthews one night at a restaurant. Dylan had gone out with Abby and a group of friends, and Alan had come over to the table. He was tall, blond and gorgeous, and she’d been mildly flattered by the attention he’d shown her that evening. Only Dylan’s obvious discomfort had kept her from accepting the date he offered.
Then, two nights later, something attacked her in the parking lot outside her apartment building, and her world exploded.
She wanted to scream at the injustice of it. Instead, she helped Dylan roll the spare tire into place and lift it onto the axle. “It’s not your fault,” she repeated. She touched his shoulder lightly.
He stiffened under her touch, and she knew he was fighting not to shrug her hand away. He’d been drowning in guilt for weeks now, choking himself with it as he struggled to help her adapt to the life that had been thrust upon her.
The hardest part had been watching his reactions change, as if some instinct that had lain dormant while she was nothing but human had shoved its way to the surface. He acted antsy whenever she got too close, and withdrew when she touched him. Their easy, open friendship was gone.
Dylan focused on the spare tire and said nothing until he had it fixed into place. The line of his jaw tightened as he took a breath. “Hand me the lug nuts?”
She wiped her palms on her jeans and gathered them with both hands. “Have you ever been to Red Rock before?”
“No.” The word came out short and rough. “Alan would have killed me. Even talking about Gavin Hamilton is treason, as far as he’s concerned.”
She handed him the first lug nut. “Because Hamilton takes people in?”
“Yeah. Because he’s fighting for the old ways.”
He’d tried to explain it to her before, but it hadn’t made much sense. She opened her mouth to question him, but a faint noise tickled her ears. A car or a truck was somewhere down the road and coming closer. “Dylan–”
He was already on his feet. “Do you know how to use a gun?”
“No.” The thought that Dylan did shocked her. “I-I can try.”
Dylan strode around the side of the car and reached through the passenger window to open his glove compartment. He pulled out a small, compact gun, and the ease with which he handled it alarmed her even more. “This is the safety.” He showed her how to switch it off. “If someone gets close to you, point and squeeze the trigger. I’m going to deal with whoever’s in that car, and you’re going to run. If anyone comes after you, do your best to shoot them.”
Something inside her balked at running, wanted to stand and fight, though she didn’t know how. “What about you?” she demanded, her teeth nearly chattering despite the warm evening air.
He didn’t say anything, but the bleak look in his eyes made words unnecessary. Dylan didn’t expect to survive the confrontation. He recognized her sudden understanding and turned away, his gaze going to the road behind them. “I mean it, Abby. You run. The longer you can stay away from them, the better the chances someone’ll come from town and find you.”
“No.” She couldn’t just leave him. “Dylan, that’s crazy. We can–”
He whipped back around, and she saw the wolf in his eyes as he curled his fingers around her shoulders. He stood only an inch or two taller than she, but the frantic energy vibrating off of him made him seem more intimidating. “Do you want to join Alan’s little harem? He shares his women, you know. Gives them out as rewards. He probably gave one to Chuck for turning you. And I’m dead either way.”
Abby sucked in a ragged breath and nodded, already backing away. “Be careful.” Before she could change her mind, she took off down the shallow embankment by the road.
She ran as fast as she dared. The sun had barely dropped beneath the horizon and the moon hung large overhead, nearly full, but the dense trees blocked the light. She could see, but she wasn’t used to her newly keen senses. The forest looked odd, eerie, and her heart pounded with fear.
No. Another emotion rose up to overwhelm her terror.
She skidded to a stop, her shoes slipping and crunching on dry pine needles. She couldn’t leave Dylan to die, no matter what he’d said. The gun lay heavy in her hand, and she stared down at it. Even if she couldn’t save herself or Dylan, she wouldn’t have to go with them.
She had a way out.
She tried to be quiet as she headed back to the car, letting her nose guide her when her sense of direction failed. She smelled car exhaust, sweat…
The men who had caught up to them weren’t bothering to be quiet. They filled the night with their laughter, with Dylan’s muffled grunts of pain. She heard the sick sound of fists against flesh, and Dylan roared. Someone laughed, and she drew close enough for their words to carry to her through the trees.
“If you wanted a bitch so bad, you should have asked your alpha. Might have been hard to find one pathetic enough to bend over for you, but he would have at least looked.”
Their laughter masked her approach. It was clear that, no matter their plans for her, they’d been given carte blanche to hurt Dylan. No, stupid, she berated herself silently. Not hurt.
Abby walked toward them, the gun in her outstretched hand. “Let him go.”
Dylan groaned in protest and forced himself to his knees. “Run, Abby–” A booted foot crashed into his chin, knocking him back to the ground.
The owner of the foot turned to grin at Abby. Tall and blond, his blue eyes held nothing but amused condescension as his gaze swept over her, barely pausing at the gun. “Oh, you’re feisty.” He turned his head and spit on the ground next to Dylan’s head. “Too good for the likes of you, Gennaro.”
She squeezed the trigger and fired.
The gun jerked in her hand and she flinched back. One of the other men swore and jumped to the side, but the ringleader just laughed. “Come on. Put the gun down before you hurt yourself, sweetheart. We’ll take good care of you.”
She ignored him and tried to aim again. Her second shot went just as wide, and this time all three of them laughed.
The laughter cut short when another shot rang out and the blond man’s head snapped back. Abby registered nothing more than the fact she hadn’t pulled the trigger before the man hit the ground, a bullet hole between his eyes.
Pandemonium erupted and was silenced just as quickly as the mysterious shooter took down the two remaining men, one with a bullet to the chest, and the other with one to the gut.
Abby didn’t question it, didn’t think. She rushed forward and grabbed Dylan by the shirt. “Stand up,” she demanded. “Dammit, Dylan–” She managed to drag him halfway behind the car’s bumper, instinctively cutting them off from the general direction of the shots.
The man with the stomach wound curled a hand around her ankle, his grip hard enough to be painful. He yanked at her leg in spine-jarring jerks, trying to drag her back out into the open. She kicked at him and recoiled with a shriek when a fourth shot sounded and blood exploded from his head.
Dylan had gotten to his knees somehow, and he pulled the gun from her hand and tried to drag her back behind him, as if to shield her from whoever had shot their attackers. A crunch of gravel from the other side of the road snapped his head around, and he raised the gun in a hand that shook so badly Abby doubted he’d be able to fire, much less hit anything.
The man who walked toward them looked dangerous even before his power hit them in a scalding wave, the strength of it like nothing she’d ever experienced. She’d learned to recognize the feeling of another werewolf from extended contact with Dylan, but her friend’s energy was like soft sunlight against her skin, warm and a little tingly, but easily ignored.
The large man who stopped a few paces away was something else entirely. Putting aside the energy that singed the air around him, he was physically imposing. His tight T-shirt emphasized his wide shoulders and strong muscles, and the dark leather shoulder rig that cut across the white fabric had holsters for two guns. One was empty, the weapon held easily at his side as he surveyed the two dead attackers and one survivor. Everything about him was dark–his hair, eyes, even the fierce expression he wore.
That expression didn’t change when he looked at Dylan and found him pointing the gun at him. “You’re okay now. Put the gun down.”
Dylan’s shoulders sagged in what might have been relief, and he lowered the weapon obediently.
The man’s gaze moved to Abby, and his face softened a little. “You okay?”
The human part of her–the part that had just watched him shoot three men–wanted to run, hide. The rest of her wanted to cling to the power that poured off him. “I’m all right.” She held his gaze for a moment, then lowered her eyes. When she looked back, he was still watching her. “Who are you?”
Dylan answered. “He’s one of Hamilton’s enforcers.” Her friend’s voice shook, though she wasn’t sure if it was with pain or relief. “He’s safe. We’re safe.”
“Keith.” It was so short and abrupt she didn’t realize at first that it was meant to be an introduction. Keith holstered his gun and moved to the third man, the one still whimpering in pain. He nudged the man’s body over with his foot and studied him appraisingly.
The man tried to speak, but managed only incoherent moans. Abby took a deep breath. “Will he make it?”
“Probably.” Keith leaned down and searched the man with an ease that looked practiced. He pulled a cell phone from one pocket and a gun from an ankle holster. He absently checked the gun, set it on top of the car, and crushed the cell phone under one booted heel. “If he does, he can drag himself home and tell them what happens when you cross our borders to hurt someone looking for sanctuary.”
Dylan dragged in a pained breath and braced a hand against the back bumper of the car as he tried to stand. “Alan Matthews had someone attack her. He wants her, and he’s not going to just let her go.”
“Dylan.” The word came out more sharply than she intended, and she looped his arm around her shoulders to help him. “We can talk about it later.”
Keith’s dark gaze flicked back and forth between them before settling on Dylan. “Can you walk back to my Jeep, or do you need to wait here?”
“I can walk,” Dylan said, his voice stubborn. “I want to get Abby somewhere safe.”
“She is somewhere safe,” came the calm reply, and Keith smiled a little as he reached for the gun he’d set on top of the car. He checked it again and tucked it into the waistband of his jeans. “She’s with me.”
Abby fought a shiver as she glanced at Keith. Judging from the way he’d dealt with Matthews’ men, he’d have no problem with whatever else they might face. “Let’s go.”