Authors: Aimee Easterling
Book 1 of the Alpha Underground trilogy
by Aimee Easterling
Copyright © 2016 by Aimee Easterling.
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the author. The only exception is by a reviewer, who may quote short excerpts in a review.
Read more about my books at www.aimeeeasterling.com.
Three shifters walked into a bar.
It sounds like the beginning of a corny joke, doesn’t it?
But here’s a little more information for you. I was those shifters’ alpha and den mother rolled into one. Two of the barhoppers were jail bait or close to it. And the establishment in question was filled to the brim with horny, lawless, outpack males.
No wonder I wasn’t laughing and
in a big hurry.
I breezed past the bouncer with a show of entirely human teeth, then rolled my eyes at his laxness. The employee wasn’t being remiss by not checking my ID. Not in a werewolf bar. But he still wasn’t really doing his job.
I was twenty-one—barely—which is all humans would have cared about when allowing entrance to a drinking establishment. But the guy at the door in a shifter bar was supposed to turn away anyone without the ability to don fur and howl at the moon. And even though I was technically a shifter, my half-human heritage meant my wolf was too weak to rise up behind my eyes and prove her worth to the bouncer.
Good thing I was accustomed to faking it.
But I wasn’t home free just yet. I’d barely set foot in the sea of writhing bodies when one of those lawless males alluded to earlier grabbed my arm, swinging me around to collide hard with his chest. My chin thudded against bare flesh only slightly less hairy than it would have been in lupine form and my nose took in the over-ripe scent of unwashed man.
Not that it would have mattered if he was cute. I was on a mission and Ginger, Cinnamon, and Lia had a half-hour head start on me. I could only imagine what kind of mischief the trouble twins and their tagalong cousin could get up to during thirty long minutes alone.
“Nice to see another lady in the place,” the male offered with a triumphant leer, clearly pleased with himself for having snagged one of the few females in evidence. His words made it sound like he was trying to pick me up, but his iron grip on my bicep presented a very different picture. Ten feet in the door, I was already in trouble.
Luckily, I was up to the challenge.
“Not interested,” I replied sweetly, grinding the heel of one boot into the top of my assailant’s arch. I hadn’t dressed to impress and didn’t particularly expect my hiking shoes to make much of an impression. But I was pleasantly surprised. This particular male must have shown up at the back door in wolf form because his feet were bare. And they were also apparently quite sensitive to being stomped on.
Unfortunately, the shifter didn’t so much release me as fling me across the room to land against the legs of another group of outpack males. This time I was the one initiating the collision, and the male I struck wasn’t impressed. Snarling, he kicked me out of his path. But at least he didn’t look down.
I guess my weak wolf has a few things going for her
, I thought as I struggled to my feet. There had to be at least a hundred males in the room and most of them were almost certainly outpack werewolves with no clan—or woman—of their own. A lone female like me in a bar like this was akin to lighting a match beside a powder keg then standing there tapping my foot while wondering if anything would blow.
Luckily, my half-blood skin didn’t exude the same sort of come-hither charm as a pure-bred pack princess would have. And, in the dimness of the dance floor, my tomboy apparel probably made me look like just another shifter kid out on his own and hunting for a good time.
Or perhaps the males’ lack of attention to my skinny form was the result of vastly more enticing eye candy on the other side of the room. Because I soon caught sight of my three pack mates by dint of following everyone’s gazes to a table off to the side of the bar. There, Ginger was belting out an accompaniment to the piped-in music and providing enticing visual aids to prove that tequila did indeed make her clothes fall off.
“Take it all off!” one of the shifters beside me hollered, and the crowd surged forward in one enthusiastic mass. I figured it wouldn’t be long before the first horny guy made it past Cinnamon’s guard and turned this happy crowd into a bloodbath. So I gave up on pushing between chests and instead dropped down into a crouch, weaving my way around legs as hefty as tree trunks.
Abruptly, I found myself pushed into a corner of the room, my trajectory losing perspective as Ginger’s voice was drowned out by roars of encouragement. For a split second, I was back in the tiny cellar where I’d been stuffed by bullying pure-breeds when I was barely old enough to attend kindergarten.
Dark, close, no way out.
Sweat broke out on my forehead and I forced fingers between knees to stop the former from trembling.
Okay, so I’ll admit it. My knees were trembling too.
This is absurd. They got themselves into this mess and they can get themselves right back out of it.
My single glimpse of Ginger had proven that her brother was indeed at her back, ready and willing to take on the entire room full of shifters in her defense. The male twin had one hand on Lia’s arm too, proving his intent to guard his cousin as well as his sister. Still, the kid had looked scared even as she did her best to mimic Ginger’s gyrations.
So, yes, I could pretend that the three teenagers would make it out of there alive without my assistance...even if that pretense would have been a bald-faced lie.
But I just couldn’t talk myself into the mental evasion. I’d been abandoned too many times in my life to do the same for members of my own pack.
Plus, I was ostensibly those teenagers’ alpha, which meant I was in charge of keeping their flesh attached to their bones. I knew it and they knew it. Why else would Ginger have made the admittedly stupid decision to try out another shifter bar despite the fallout from her last similar attempt? Even she wouldn’t have gone off half-cocked if backup wasn’t on the way.
So I pulled a deep breath into lungs that already ached from overexertion and I pushed my way back into the crowd.
“Ready to go home?” I called up to my pack mates when I finally achieved my destination. Cinnamon was laughing in delight at his sister’s antics, Lia had finally discovered the beat, and Ginger had stripped down to a bra and miniskirt with nothing underneath.
I knew the latter fact not only because I could see straight up her skirt but also because she was stepping out of lacy undies and preparing to fling them into the crowd as I spoke. The female trouble twin flicked the aromatic garment away with one finger, and the lucky males close enough to have a chance at claiming the prize fell to the ground in a pile of testosterone-crazed aggression and greed.
Unfortunately, though, most of the shifters wanted a piece of the original, not just a scrap of fabric that had picked up the pack princess’s scent. My stomach banged painfully against the edge of the table as I was thrust forward by another surge of the crowd. In response, I grabbed onto the laminated particleboard with grim fingers, doing my best to hold my ground while waiting for my pack mates to come to their senses.
For a moment, Ginger merely smiled at the show. Then her eyes took on a truly wicked gleam as she glanced down at me, proving she wasn’t ready to let me off the hook just yet.
“Hey, Fen,” she called in greeting. “What a blast, huh?”
Only an hour earlier, I’d begged the nineteen-year-old to pay attention to the way her pack-princess vibe turned our neighbors into animals—sometimes not only metaphorically but also in the flesh. I’d asked that she at least consider her brother’s and Lia’s safety before jumping into danger with both feet joyfully extended. In response, the trouble twin had rolled her eyes and demanded to know the point of being a member of a free, young pack if I was as much of a pain in the ass as her last alpha.
I’d thought the teenager just needed to gripe and moan, so I’d shrugged off her words. But, no—as soon as my back was turned, Ginger had snuck out to prove her point.
“You win,” I yelled up at her now, not sure if she could even hear me over the din of the crowd. “But how do you plan to get Lia out of here alive?”
In response, Cinnamon lowered the sixteen-year-old into my waiting arms, then leapt down off the table to join us. “Ginger’s gonna make a diversion so you can break our cuz here free,” he yelled into my ear. “We’ll meet you around back.”
“Not much of an exit strategy,” a quiet voice drawled into my other ear. I whipped around to face a tall shifter about my age dressed up in cowboy chic—ten-gallon hat, checkered shirt, huge belt buckle, and nut-hugger jeans. Unlike the hairy-chest guy, this one was cute, but I didn’t trust my human intuition to root out his true intentions and my wolf was better off sleeping. Still, Ten-Gallon wasn’t grabbing Lia’s ass, so I figured he was a cut above the rest of the room’s inhabitants.
“Do you have a better idea?” I challenged him.
“I’ll boost you out that window,” he offered, pointing at a tiny aperture barely large enough for Ginger’s hips to wiggle through.
Okay, so the trouble twin’s hips matched her boobs—huge and comely. The rest of us would have no problem sliding out.
As long as Ten-Gallon could be trusted at our back, that was. I traded a glance with Cinnamon and my pack mate shrugged in response. Unlike his sister, the male half of the trouble team was laid back to a fault. I could never quite tell if Cinnamon obeyed me because I was his pack leader or just because it was easier to float along on the wave of even my extremely mild version of alpha dominance than to stand against the tide.
So the choice would rest on my shoulders alone, as usual. That was okay—I was used to it.
“Okay, Cinn. You go out first and we’ll toss Lia up after you. If anything goes wrong, Glen’s got the car idling out front. Get out of here, and Ginger and I will take our chances.”
The song was nearing its dramatic conclusion and the crowd was yelling commands at their entertainer so loudly I could barely hear myself think. But when Cinnamon touched his sister’s foot and jerked his chin up at the window, I could see the pack princess take in the entire plan in a moment via that ultimate in modern communication—twin speak.
“Okay,” she mouthed. Then the buxom shifter produced a diversion as promised. First, she reached forward to fiddle with the front clasp of her bra, releasing her bountiful breasts. Then she spun on high heels to show off the merchandise, a feat that I was pretty sure would have caused me to break my neck even if I wasn’t perched atop a table in a crowded bar.
Werewolves are accustomed to casual nudity, but even I had to admit that Ginger’s boobs were things of beauty. The outpack males fell silent through pure awe as they took in a show they’d never thought possible—a pack princess emulating a topless dancer. There was no pole to climb, but Ginger did just fine without props, swiveling her hips so enticingly that Cinnamon and Lia made their escape without a single shifter in the room taking notice.
Well, that wasn’t quite true. My new buddy and I noticed because we were the ones boosting our companions up toward the unconventional exit. “You next?” asked Ten-Gallon, not quite able to tear his gaze away from the table-top view.
“No, Ginger next.” Sure, the teenager seemed quite capable of taking care of herself. But I was her alpha. Which meant that I would also be the last to leave this sinking ship.
Of course, I knew the minute the metaphorical curtain came down, the crowd would turn nasty. But there was no getting around the inevitable. We’d just have to move fast and take our chances.
I sprang up on the table to join Ginger, boosting her toward our new accomplice’s waiting hands.
“No way!” “Boo!” “Hey!”
The cacophony of displeasure abruptly ceased as Ginger stepped out of her final item of apparel, allowing the tiny skirt to drift down and settle upon the table. Then she turned to blow a kiss toward her doting audience.
The pack princess was now buck naked and every male in the place—Ten-Gallon included—roared his approval.
Then Ginger was slithering out the window to join the rest of our clan, leaving me as the only pack mate still in danger. Well, me and Mr. Ten-Gallon Hat, who wasn’t looking like such a good defense against several dozen hyped up and disappointed outpack males.
This may be the time faking it isn’t quite enough
, I thought inanely.
And then my stalker walked through the door.