Blood Wolf by Leigh Kelsey

Chapter 1

 

Edison groaned as I closed my huge wolf jaws carefully around his limp, lifeless body. That groan made something collapse in my chest—he was alive. My mate wasn’t dead.

The fake enchanted forest around us—the most recent in a series of nightmarish trials I was forced to endure to prove my worth to Blake Hall—was deathly silent as I painstakingly pushed to my massive silver paws. The acrid scent of magic shoved up my oversensitive wolf nose as I listened for more groans, more signs Edison was okay.

Well, maybe not okay. He’d been grabbed by the same hex I had, dragged fuck knows how many feet into the air[2], had nearly suffocated to death by a magical noose, and then he’d plummeted another fuck knows back to the ground. So okay was a bit of a stretch. But the groan meant he was alive, and that was more than I hoped for.

He might have been a massive dick, might have rejected me and crushed my heart into teeny, tiny shards, but he was still my mate. Edison dying would have wrecked me. And it still might if I didn’t get him out of this fucked up trial fast enough.

I was going to have serious words with Dean, my Sexy Sir, for putting us through this. It was out of order. Just like his dick was going to be when I kicked him in it for sending us both into this grassy cube of nightmares and rotary phones.[3]

Listening for more of Edison’s moans, I turned on huge paws, wincing at the blood that soaked into my fur—his. I snapped my head down to scan him for injuries and I was nearly sick, my gorge rising at the sight of his ankle bone sticking out of his skin.

Gross. I killed people and carved cute cartoons into them for fun, but bone sticking out of an ankle? Too, too far. I heaved.

Focus, Rebel, I chided myself. Dying mate, remember?

I made sure I wasn’t going to drop Edison and silently apologised for jostling him as I raced out of the clearing, zipping past massively tall trees and dense shrubbery that was all wrong, wrong, wrong. There were no insects buzzing, no earthy smells, just the sharp scent of magic and silence.

I was glad when I found the solid mossy wall where I’d entered the infernal grass cube. The door glowed silver, confirmation I’d actually passed the trial by dialing thirteen, but I didn’t bother to open it.[4] I just ducked my head and rammed my muscular, furry shoulder into the grass, exploding through it into a moonlit field.

Dean was waiting for me, a tight expression on his handsome, lined face, and his chin-length silver hair blew into his face in the sharp wind. His concerned expression dropped into comical shock at the sight of my huge, silver wolf, my fur glowing like the moon, a half-dead Edison clutched in my jaws.

With painstaking slowness, I laid my injured mate on the ground at Dean’s feet and made a pitiful sound I hoped he translated as help him.

“What did you do?” he growled, going all alpha and making my chest hurt.

I might have been threatening Edison since the second I saw him at Blake Hall, but I wasn’t going to actually hurt him.

I shook my huge head, my eyes big and pleading—were they silver and glowing, too?—as I tried to shift back to human. But it took something as huge and terrifying as Edison plummeting to the ground to trigger my shift. How the hell was I going to change back?

“We’ll talk later,” Dean warned, grabbing Edison too roughly for my liking.

Edison moaned in pain.

My whimper turned into a growl, and I bared my teeth, all my fur standing on end as I faced off with Dean.

Be. Careful.

He blinked, maybe understanding my meaning. I watched Edison’s blood soak into his grey tweed suit and felt sick. “Did you do this?”

I shook my head—and wobbled on my paws. Whoa. Almost having your neck snapped and then exploding with magic took a hell of a toll.

Hex, I tried to say, but of course no actual language came out.

“Someone else tried to kill you,” Dean guessed, readjusting Edison’s weight in his arms—more carefully this time to appease my wolf.

I nodded—and without a damn warning, I slumped down in the manicured grass as my legs gave out.

I’ll just stay here … and nap, I tried to say. But my eyelids slid over my eyes before I could do more than sigh.

***

When I woke up, I was human again, and bundled into a massive four-poster bed with heat and muscle all around me. Dean’s scent of sweet amber hung thick in the air, soothing my ragged instincts until I was calm.

“Mmm,” I breathed, snuggling into the warmth pressed up on either side of me, hard bodies cradling my own. I could have done without the gross morning breath and the rank taste in my mouth, but there were worse ways to wake up.

“Jelly bean?” a manic voice demanded, bringing a smile to my face. “Pumpkin? Baked Alaska?” Each name came more frantic than the last, his voice breathy and urgent, and the bed dipped as a bony body crawled on top of mine, pinning me to the mattress. I attempted to open my eyes, but they’d been superglued shut.

“I’m alright, Slasher,” I rasped, sliding my hand across his back, and pouting when cotton stopped me from sliding against bare skin. I wanted skin to skin comfort, and instinct told me he needed it, too. Still, his taut body went loose and pliant at my touch, and he clung tighter, exhaling a hard, long breath.

“Someone tried to kill you,” a deep voice countered, the vibrations of that shiver-inducing voice moving through my back. I sighed, melting as Hugh’s arm came around my waist under the covers and tucked me close to his chest. This was nice. Better than nice. Fucking incredible, actually. Even if Slasher was a heavy lump laid awkwardly on top of me like a very large lap dog.

“Again,” I huffed, forcing my eyes open to look at Dean, who I’d guessed laid in front of me by the heavy concentration of his scent. His whiskey eyes trained on my face, scanning to gauge my emotions. Maybe expecting me to freak out about being almost assassinated—or more likely expecting me to go on a stabby rampage.[5] “But they failed, again.”

That noose hex hadn’t been just a warning; it was a serious attempt to strangle me. And I had absolutely no idea who wanted me dead. I knew the scent signature was someone blood related to me, but my family was fucking massive.

Tracking them down was going to be a pain in the ass.

Speaking of which, my whole body ached like I’d been run through one of those fancy pasta machines. Mmmm, pasta. I could eat a whole vat of linguine right now. Having your mate nearly die on you was draining. Wait—

Alarm hit hard enough to bruise my chest, and I shot upright, tossing Slasher onto Hugh who grunted and flashed him a narrowed stare until he scrambled to the end of the bed. Panic clawed at my chest from the inside, trying to rip out of my rib cage, leaving a messy hole. “Edison—”

“Is fine,” Dean soothed, catching my chin between his forefinger and thumb, forcing me to meet his gaze. At the calmness in his wrinkled brown eyes, the terror loosened its grip on my chest. Slightly. “He woke up during the night, and told us what happened.”

“So it wasn’t—wasn’t his neck that broke?”

My voice came out small and broken, and I hated the weakness even if I wasn’t ashamed of it. Here with my mates, however new these bonds were, I was okay with being vulnerable.

“No, baby,” Dean replied, his hand wrapping around the back of my neck and bringing me closer so his lips could press to my forehead. “It was his ankle. He passed out because of the pain. And the bone sticking out his skin.”

I retched, remembering the sight of blood-streaked bone, and cuddled closer to Dean, letting him comfort me while I panicked.

What had I done before finding my mates? Looking back, I’d lived a lonely, pathetic life. Getting dragged to Blake Hall was probably the best thing to happen to me.

Minus all the murder attempts.

“Move, move, move,” Slasher hissed, his patience reaching a breaking point. The bed shifted beneath the weight of my wide-eyed, panicking vampire. “I want to be close to my bonbon. Stop hogging her.”

I laughed, the weight lifting off my chest as I turned onto my back and opened my arms, grinning when Slasher threw himself into them, flattening his tall body to my front. There was a duvet between us, but the comfort was intense enough to make my eyes burn.

“I never get scared,” I admitted, holding him tighter. “But I was really scared when Edison fell.”

“We’re going to find who did this,” Slasher hissed, his fangs bared and red eyes gleaming in his sharp, aristocratic face. “I promise, cherry pie, we’ll rip out his throat and make him pay.”

My shoulders sagged at the promise, and I swallowed the lump in my throat. Death threats always made me teary eyed and emotional.

“I know we will.” But… “It’s someone in my family,” I sighed, pressing my face into his shoulder as if I could ignore the truth. Someone in my family wanted me dead. “When I shifted into … whatever I shifted into, I picked up a scent on the ropes.”

Dean’s eyes got dark as he shoved upright beside us, his back thumping against the heavy wooden headboard with a deadly growl in his chest. “The ropes that tried to snap your neck.”

“Yeah, those,” I agreed, shivers moving down my spine at the cool murder in his eyes. It wasn’t my Sexy Sir staring at me, but my Straw Man, and I shuddered in excitement and wariness.

“It’s someone who shares blood with me. Someone in my family wants me dead.”

“Then we kill them first,” Hugh said, tugging me closer to his massive body, a protective rumble shuddering through his chest into my side.

I nodded—and forced myself not to recoil from the impossibility of that task. All we had to do was find someone who knew how to stay hidden and crafty, and who seemed one step ahead at every damn time.

I might have been Graves, badass assassin and hitlady, but I had to admit I was a little out of my league.