Authors: Joyce,T. S.
(KANE’S MOUNTAINS, BOOK 2)
By T. S. JOYCE
Copyright © 2016 by T. S. Joyce
Copyright © 2016, T. S. Joyce
First electronic publication: September 2016
T. S. Joyce
All rights are reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. The unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this copyrighted work is illegal. No part of this book may be scanned, uploaded or distributed via the Internet or any other means, electronic or print, without the author’s permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
This book is a work of fiction. The names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the writer’s imagination or have been used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, actual events, locale or organizations is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
Published in the United States of America.
Cover Image: Greenowl Photog
Cover Model: Shade Moran
Dustin Porter didn’t want to do this. In fact, he would rather do literally anything else in the world than sit in the dark woods waiting on his pack to show up. Axton was going to bleed him.
Dustin leaned up against his Nissan GT-R. He’d bought it in all black, because the ladies loved dark and sleek. That, and it matched his wolf. Dustin checked his watch and smoothed his shoulder-length hair out of his face. This was just like his brother to make him wait on his punishment. It was just like when they were kids, and their mom got called into the principal’s office to discuss whatever trouble he and Axton were in. She’d beg Mr. Sheldon not to suspend them
, then jam a finger at them and say, “Just wait until your father hears about this. See you at home, boys.” Ugh, those days sucked balls. It would’ve been easier to get the beating over with, but no, he had to endure the rest of the school day and then sit around waiting for Dad to get home to wallop him.
Axton was just like Dad. That wasn’t a compliment.
The sound of a truck engine rattled the woods and drowned out the gently flowing river in front of Dustin. Already he felt the urge to expose his neck just to save himself from pain. Dustin inhaled deeply and plastered a smile on his face, then turned to greet the bouncing headlights.
Axton angled toward his GT-R but didn’t slow down. Fuck. Dustin put his hands out. “Not the car!” It was the one material possession that meant anything to him.
Axton gunned it, laughing out the window like a psychopath, the dick. Dustin stepped in front of the car and waited for the hit. God, this was going to hurt, but Axton wouldn’t kill him. Probably. Axton slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop just inches away from Dustin. Dust kicked up in swirls around him. The door to the old truck swung open so hard it banked back, and Axton let off a string of curse words that would curl the hair of their granny wolf.
“Hey, what did the door ever do to you?” Dustin joked.
Axton pinned him against the side of the car and slammed Dustin’s head backward. His brother was the opposite of him. He used to be tall, dark, and handsome where Dustin barely made six foot and was stockier with sandy-blond hair. All the ladies used to drop their panties for Axton, but not anymore. Harper Keller had burned him so badly that one side of his face looked like melted metal. His hair hadn’t grown back either. His eyes glowed silver as though his wolf was already wanting the fight, but that was just Axton now. He’d been a loose cannon before, but now he wasn’t right.
“You had one fuckin’ job to do,” Axton ground out.
“Dude, breath mint.”
“Jokes? Seriously?” Axton yelled. He squeezed his fist around Dustin’s throat, cutting his air off slowly. “I could pop your head from your body right now, and do you know what I would feel? Nothing.”
The threat hurt in ways his soulless brother would never understand.
“All you had to do was get in the crew. That’s it. So imagine my reaction when it’s announced that the Blackwings registered a bear and a panther to the crew, but no fuckin’ wolf.”
Dustin’s vision collapsed inward from the lack of oxygen, but Dustin didn’t dare struggle. This is the way it was with Dad, too. Struggle, and he really would kill him. Wait for him to tire of the abuse, and Axton might let him breathe another day. He hated his brother. But he loved him more than anything. He was his alpha. Maybe he should just provoke Axton this time and end the purgatory.
After Axton released his neck, Dustin doubled over, gasping. Rubbing his throat, he croaked out, “They aren’t done recruiting. I still have time. Look, they wanted a couple, obviously. Rowan could be breeding and vulnerable soon, and it’ll only be the dark dragon protecting the crew. I think they picked a mated pair to recruit because Kane’s looking for protective brawlers who care about breeding, too.”
“What about your fool-proof way in?” Jace, Second of the Valdoro pack, asked in a bored voice from where he leaned on Axton’s truck.
“Look, Dark Kane knows who I am.”
“How do you know?” Axton asked. “And why the fuck didn’t you keep from being made?”
“He knew from the moment I walked into his house, Ax. I could see it in his eyes. Could smell his hatred. It’ll take time to earn his trust. He knows I’m Valdoro pack. I don’t know how he does, but trust me, that dragon has me figured out.”
Axton paced away and yelled “fuck!” into the woods. And then he began talking to himself. Or his wolf? “He’s made. What do we do now? We could go in there hard, bring the medicine to suppress the dragon, keep him chained up and make him tell us everything about Harper’s weaknesses, then kill him. But what if he escapes? What if his mate defends him? We could kill her, too. We’re already going to kill them both, but we need information first. They aren’t our target. The Bloodrunners are. Can’t get close enough to Harper. We keep trying but she’s too wary. She won’t let us near her. Want to hurt her first anyway. Kill her and we’ll be okay again. Take her mountains. It’s my territory. Pack territory. Gotta be careful of her fire. Fire. Fire.” Axton squatted down and gripped the back of his head. “We’ll rip the fire from her belly and kill everything she loves. Hunt like a pack. Work in from the outside. Kill her pets. Learn her weaknesses. Kill the Blackwing Dragons. Kill her crew. Kill her mate. That baby. That dragon baby. That baby.”
Dustin frowned at Jace who was watching Axton’s conversation with himself with as much worry on his face as Dustin felt. Axton smelled sicker than the last time Dustin had seen him.
Well, at least Dustin understood the plan better now. Axton had been pretty damn vague when he’d ordered him to apply for the Blackwing Crew. Honestly, Dustin had been on this little suicide mission thinking he was just supposed to kill the dragons, not get information about Harper from them first.
“You said you almost killed them,” Axton said, standing and slinking closer, insanity in his bright silver eyes.
“Yeah, when the A-Team came after them. I almost had a chance. Kane and Rowan were pumped full of drugs and their dragons were suppressed.”
“Who’s the A-Team?” Jace asked.
“Oh, that’s what me and the D-Team named the asshole shoo-ins for the crew. Except they weren’t really there to join. Somebody sent them after the Blackwing Dragons.”
“You ain’t no D-Team, you dumbass!” Axton barked out. “Don’t lump yourself with them. You’re pack. You’re Valdoro. You’re mine. Don’t you grow sympathy for those shifters. They’re cannon fodder. They’re already dead.”
Dustin dipped his gaze to Axton’s work boots as the faces of the D-Team flashed across his mind. Logan, Winter, Beast…Emma. She was just a helpless human. He didn’t like Axton’s threat. “What did they do wrong?”
“Weak!” Axton yelled, spittle flying from his lips. “You’re so fuckin’ weak. You stink of it. Dad was right. Fucking submissive werewolf, what good are you? No good to me. You fail and fail and fail. Where were you when we tried to kill that Bloodrunner bitch, Lexi? Huh? I didn’t see you hunting. I looked around and, poof, my own flesh-and-blood brother has tucked tail and run like a coward.”
The heat of fury blasted up Dustin’s cheeks. He hadn’t run away. He just hadn’t hunted the human because Axton had been wrong to order the pack to murder her. Axton had brought the wrath of the Bloodrunners on himself, but Dustin could never, ever say that out loud if he wanted to stay alive.
Jace stepped closer and ran his hands through his spiked hair. “Look, Dustin, you said they were looking for paired-up shifters. I can get you a female.”
“Won’t work. They closed down applications.”
“Okay,” Jace said, “then pair up with a female already up for consideration.”
“Emma is the only girl, and she’s human.”
“Perfect. Manipulate her. Use her. Fuck her, I don’t care. Get in the fucking crew so we can move onto the next step of this plan. Look at your brother.” Jace gestured to where Axton had wandered off to the edge of the tree line. He was taking a piss and talking to himself. “Losing the pack was hard on him. The loss is too much on his wolf. If he’s going to be okay, he has to have vengeance. His wolf needs it to steady out so we can start rebuilding Valdoro.”
Dustin didn’t like this at all. He’d always gone along with his brother’s decisions because he was the dominant sibling. And when Axton took alpha of one of the biggest packs in North America, Dustin had been there to watch him rise, backing him every step of the way. But this? Going against the dragons to get to another equally lethal dragon? And it wasn’t Jace or Axton taking the risk. They’d put it all on his shoulders.
“Brother,” Axton said, suddenly blurring to a stop in front of him. His eyes were almost lucid and had darkened to the color of storm clouds. When he cupped Dustin’s head and rested his own forehead against Dustin’s, it almost felt like when they were kids again. When they were friends. His eyes were full of desperation when he pleaded, “Save me, brother.” A long snarl rattled Axton’s throat, and he closed his eyes tightly. “Save us,” he said in a monstrous voice.
And what else could he do? Axton was all Dustin had in this world. He was family. He was pack. “Okay,” he murmured.
“Swear on Mom,” Axton said, like when they were kids.
Dustin swallowed hard at the pain in his chest. “I swear on Mom.”
Axton slapped the back of his head a couple times—too hard. “Good boy. Now Change. I need to bleed something.”
“What?” Dustin asked. He looked from Axton to Jace, but the Second only shrugged.
Axton walked a few paces away and then turned, his eyes blazing white. “Give me your wolf.” A cruel smile twisted his face. “First you failed, and then you questioned me. I can’t let that slide, and you know it.” Power rippled through the air as his brother gave the order. “Change. Now.”
Dustin fell to his knees and tried to fight it, but this was part of being submissive, the part he hated the most about himself. It was part of being at the bottom of the pack. He was eternally stuck following the order of monsters. His head snapped back, and a whimper of pain wrenched through his throat as he fought with all his strength. His wolf was being dragged from his skin, though, his bones breaking slowly. Axton was watching with a satisfied smile that said he got pleasure out of watching him hurt. He always had.
Dustin hated and loved him. Hated and loved.
A gray wolf exploded from Axton’s body, and Dustin yelled as his own black wolf ripped out of his skin.
And then there was pain.