Authors: Lia Davis
“Moral of the story. Don’t cross Travis,” Blaine said with approval in his tone.
Chuckles filled the room.
“I’m going to recap for Travis’s benefit,” Keegan announced before getting to his point. “I didn’t have Travis tell you this to stir up mistrust. Lord knows we still have plenty of that lingering between the two Packs. I just wanted to remind everyone that this war affects all shifter communities, and that we are fighting to bring back the sense of peace.”
Blaine nodded his agreement and added, “I don’t like the increase in activity of late. The rogues are getting ballsy, or they’re dumber than we thought. The attack on Jared in December pissed me off.”
Hayden made a nose in his throat. “Pussy-ass bastards took him by surprise. Jared won’t talk about what actually went down. They need to be stopped. Yet every time we get close to finding their den, they move.”
Cameron spoke next. “Jared’s a loner. We all know that. But I’m now concerned about what Travis said about a mutant’s bite.”
Travis shook his head. “He would have transformed by now. Depending on the natural resistance one has, it takes anywhere from minutes to days after. Mara had a resistance to the virus, so she didn’t start to go through the change until two days after being bitten.”
He tamped down the pain of losing his partner and best friend and the guilt of having to end her life before she became the monster she would never want to be.
Silence filled the room. Travis lifted his gaze to Keegan when he felt a light pressure inside his head. He clenched his jaw tight. He really had to remember to shield himself from the telepath. There was flash of anger mixed with pity in the Alpha’s expression, but vanished before anyone else could see it.
Keegan leaned back in his chair. “We’ll find the den, but first I’m concerned about the fence out by Dani and Nevan’s cabin. There are three possibilities. One, its humans trying to fence off land that doesn’t belong to them. Two, poachers have set up camp. Three, rogues are trying to fuck with us.”
Travis spoke up. “Could be a distraction. Rogues could be putting the fence up to draw you to that side of the property.”
Blaine nodded. “We thought of that too. So we increased border patrols on all sides.”
“We need to setup a better support system for our youth. Too many have lost focus and that makes their first shift more difficult to control,” Luna said. “If we don’t get them under control, I’m afraid we’ll lose them.”
“I’m sure we can get a few people to work as coaches and mentors,” Shay suggested.
“Good idea. I’ll leave it up to you to head that up,” Keegan said.
“Great!” Shay said with delight.
Blaine spoke next, shifting the meeting back on topic. “Back to the fence. I had Dane and Alec work on security. They have the cameras set up and running, and the fence was torn down. So now we wait to see who puts it back up.”
“Good,” Keegan said. “The next step is to find a way to extend and strengthen the wards. Anyone know a power witch or two?”
“Actually you would only need a circle of three with natural magick in their blood,” Travis said. When Keegan raised a brow, Travis continued. “My mother is half-witch and very powerful. That makes me like a third or something.” He shifted his gaze to Shay. “And Shay carries enough magick she could be another third.”
“Are you sure you’re up to it? Your daughter is ill.”
Travis nodded, keeping his emotions in check so as not to show the weakness and helplessness that coursed through him at that moment. “All the more reason to do this. You’re gracious in taking us in. You could’ve turned me away at the gate.”
Keegan’s mouth twitched. “So true. Very well. Consult with Robyn and let me know when you are ready, but do make it soon.”
Travis agreed, and Keegan dismissed the meeting. The enforcers left except Blaine and Cameron. Luna escaped to the kitchen, most likely checking on dinner.
As he stood, Shay tugged him back down and spoke low enough that no one would overhear her. “I can’t set wards.”
He chuckled. “Yes you can. You’ve just never had anyone teach you.”
She looked as though she wanted to argue but fell silent as her father approached. Travis wasn’t sure he liked the sudden shift in her mood. She’d gone from relaxed to tense with a hint of fear in her scent.
“I’d like to speak to the both of you,” Keegan said and walked to the back door.
Standing, Travis took Shay’s hand, noticing the slight tremble. “Are you okay?”
She nodded and took a deep breath. “Let’s get this over with.”
Shay stepped into her father’s unofficial office—aka the sunroom that overlooked the woods in the backyard—with butterflies fluttering in her belly and a cool dread that made her shake. She’d never feared her father, never had any reason to. Right now, though, fear threatened to consume her, but it wasn’t what the Alpha would do to her. It was what he’d do to Travis, who followed close behind her.
“Have a seat,” Keegan said from where he stood looking out the glass walls of the room.
As they sat, Shay wished she could vanish. Her father was furious; she could sense it, smell it in the air like soured fruit. Her stomach felt off.
Oh, God, don’t let me get sick in front of my father and soon-to-be mate
Travis wrapped an arm around her, drawing her into his warm body, and some of the dread melted away.
“What are you afraid of, Shayna?”
Shoot, full name. She was so in trouble. Taking a deep, shaky breath, she answered, “I fear what you’ll do to Travis.”
There was no need to lie. Her father would smell it. Plus, he’d always had the keen sense to know when someone was lying, even without using his telepathy.
A heavy sigh left Keegan, and he turned around. “I know you went through your heat cycle.” His gaze shifted to lock on Travis. “And I also know firsthand how hard it is to resist a female in heat.”
She was so not having this conversation with her father. She might be an adult, but she still didn’t want to talk about this. Not when she didn’t have any answers to her questions about motherhood and mating. Hell, she hadn’t had time to get everything straight in her head yet.
When Travis didn’t speak, her father narrowed his eyes and asked, “What are your intentions?”
“Shay is my mate.”
Shay’s heart sputtered for a couple of beats, but she remained silent. She lived with two alpha males and a dominant Beta. Number one rule: don’t pick sides during a pissing contest. Not that she felt that was what Travis and her father were doing, but they were each standing their ground, testing the boundaries.
Damn, she needed Cam in here to even out the male-female ratio.
“Your mate just died two years ago,” Keegan said, clearly not convinced.
Travis lowered his guard and let his head fall back against the couch. “Mara wasn’t my true mate. Our mating was arranged. It was a treaty agreement between our Packs.”
Shay winced at the mixed undercurrent of anger and sadness. She pulled back to get a better look at his expression. His cool brown gaze found hers. There was hurt in the depths of his eyes, and her heart broke for him. “But you loved her.”
He nodded, eyes starting the shine. “We grew up together. We were best friends then lovers. I never regretted any of my time with her. But deep down I knew I’d have to let her go.”
“You knew she would die?” Shay studied him, not understanding his meaning.
He brushed his knuckles over her cheek. She closed her eyes, loving the sensation that rippled through her. “No. I always thought she’d meet her true mate.”
“And you would let her go,” Keegan said.
Travis linked his fingers with Shay’s. “It was our vow to each other when we discovered what our parents had planned.”
“What about Josie?” Shay couldn’t imagine how the little girl would have coped being bounced between homes if Mara lived and found her true mate.
“Josie was our miracle. Something went wrong during Mara’s first shift. Our Healer said she’d never be able to carry a child.”
She couldn’t imagine the joy they must have felt when they found out they would be parents. Travis drew her into his arms, and she allowed it because the emotions were starting to compile on top of her. There was comfort in her wolf’s arms that she’d never felt before. Was this the mating bond forming?
Travis smiled and said, “Josie keeps me going. Besides, hunting down the bastards that took everything from me has become a new favorite pastime.”
Keegan cleared his throat, but Shay could tell it wasn’t out of irritation. “What happened the night you left, Shay?”
She froze. There was no way to lie to the Alpha. But, how much should she tell him? She looked at him. A tic formed in his temple, and his nostrils flared as if scenting the room. Damn it. She sighed and spilled everything, speaking as fast as she could to get it all out in the open.
At least Blaine wasn’t in the room because, believe it or not, her brother kept his temper on a much shorter leash than her dad did.
Shay patiently watched her friend and Pack Healer, Danica Welsh, speak softly to a smiling Josie. Shay was so relieved to see the small girl up and fever-free this morning. Robyn said the fever had finally broken a few hours before, but she wasn’t sure how long it’d stay gone.
Dani finished drawing the last vial of blood and placed a Hello Kitty bandage over the needle hole. “There, all done. You are much braver than some of the boys I’ve had to draw blood from.”
Josie giggled. “Boys are wimps.”
“Not all boys.”
The husky voice drew their attention to the door where Travis stood holding a tray with a stack of pancakes, a bowl of fruit, glasses of juice, and enough plates for all of them. Josie squealed in delight at the food. “Daddy, you cooked!”
Shay laughed and peered up at Travis. “You don’t cook much?”
He winked at her. “My mom usually beats me to it.”
Shay stood and started to drag a small table closer to the bed, only to have Travis snap at her. “Stop. I got it.”
She straightened and propped her fists on her hips. “I can get it.”
“Here, hold the tray.” He handed it to her and proceeded to draw the table over.
Shay growled low, making Travis respond with a quick kiss on her lips. She could hear Dani laughing while she spoke to Josie about how she felt. When Shay sat on the bed, Dani turned to face her and placed a hand on her forehead then moved it to hover over her heart and her stomach.
Shay locked gazes with the Healer and knew what she was about to say. Fear, happiness, and worry mounted inside her. Dani hugged her and whispered, “You’re going to be a mom.” She drew back at the confirmation.
The possibility hadn’t been real until now. She was pregnant, with Travis’s cub, or pup. She frowned and Dani asked, “What’s wrong?”
Shay looked at Josie then Travis. A chill ran down her spine, raising the fear of what a child would mean. Then her thoughts drifted to the war with Onyx and the fact that the rogues wanted her. Would she have to raise the baby alone?
Of course, Travis was a very loyal, possessive, and compassionate wolf. That didn’t mean she’d force him to stay with her just because of the child.
She would not enter a loveless mating.
Shay refocused on Dani and forced a smile. “I’m fine. Just a little shocked.”
Dani shook her head but, to Shay’s relief, didn’t push. Instead, she changed the subject back to Josie. “Do you want to talk in the hall?” she asked Travis.
He shook his head. “She’s entirely too smart for a four-year-old and hates when we talk about her when she’s not in the room. We can stay here.”
Shay crawled up the bed to sit close to the little girl that held her heart. Dani stood, allowing Travis to sit on the other side of Josie. She smiled and snuggled between both of them, looping her tiny arms with theirs.
Shay’s heart warmed at the love and trust surrounding Josie.
Dani picked up a cotton ball she’d used to stop the bleeding from the needle mark in Josie’s arm and handed it to Travis. He gave her a confused looked, and Dani pushed it at him. “Smell and let me know if that is your daughter’s natural scent.”
He inhaled and immediately shook his head. “Not completely. I mean it’s her, but something else too.”
Dani frowned. “That’s what I thought.”
Travis narrowed his eyes at the Healer. “You can’t smell the metallic scent?”
Shay flinched at Travis’s curt response and reached over to touch his arm. When his brown gaze met hers, she said, “Dani was in an accident and lost her sense of smell.”
Dani crossed her arms and gave Shay an annoyed look. “It was a fire set by a drugged up teen. The right side of my body is scarred. My sense of touch and smell hasn’t been the same since.”
Dani held a hand up at Travis’s apology and brushed it off. “I’m adapting. Now.” She took the cotton from him and placed it inside a ceramic bowl. Then she lit a match and dropped it on top the cotton. “I believe your daughter has come into contact with some type of poison, or something.”
Travis stiffened. “Not possible. She stayed with my mother at the safe house.”
At that moment, Robyn entered the room. When everyone turned to her, she stilled. “What’s going on?”
Dani sighed. “I’m going straight to the lab and start the tests. I’ll let you know what I find. Call me or Sasha if she gets worse.” She packed up her bag and left.
Robyn’s wide-eyed stare moved from Shay to Travis in a flurry of worry. Travis held out his hand. Without hesitation, she took it.
Travis tugged his mother to sit and told her Dani’s theory.
Robyn shook her head. “I was careful. I only got the freshest ingredients and never went anywhere but same market I always used.”
Travis drew her into a hug. “I know, Mom. This isn’t your fault.”
Shay reached over to touch Robyn’s shoulder. “It could have come from anything. A new toy, the bags from the market, or anything she came in contact with. There’s no telling what the rouges would do.”
Her emotions were running wild. She was pregnant, and if it took, she’d be a mother in about seven months. Josie, the sweet baby girl, was sick, possibly poisoned by the enemy; like a switch cold fear froze her in place. “Oh, no.”