Authors: Anna Craig
Ruled by the Pack
Wicked Wolf Shifters Serial, part 5:
Tamsin & Jackson
***this is a CLIFFHANGER first short novella of the second part of a serial. This is NOT a full-length book. Each title must be read in order.***
As the fearless, loyal second-in-command of the powerful Wicked Mountain Wolf Shifters, Jackson Rule has sheer animal magnetism, almost limitless influence in his pack, and legions of adoring female fans. He's prowled through life as a charming bad boy for centuries, and so far it's been one sweet ride.
Except for the undeniable temptation by the only woman he can never have: Tamsin, the incredibly captivating but utterly off-limits sister of his pack's alpha.
As sister of the alpha, Tamsin Reginald is strong, reliable, and completely driven by the needs of her pack. She's always stayed far away from wild Jackson and his ladykiller ways. Besides, her eventual mating is expected to be a smart political alliance. And impossibly sexy Jackson is anything but a smart decision.
But Tamsin is on the verge of losing control, heart, body, and soul—because she's about to be Ruled by the pack.
To the reader: This story contains hot sex with all the dirty details, naughty language, characters who say “oh, hell yeah” to the fun times, shifter violence, and yes, a cliffhanger. If that isn't your thing, this story probably won't be either. But if all that sounds great, this serial is for you!
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Jackson Rule reached up to touch his cheek. It stung like a bitch. That little vixen had claws, and she hadn't been afraid to use them. No wonder his face still stung. She'd smacked him with what seemed like every ounce of her strength. At least she hadn't literally clawed out his eyes. He rather liked having his vision intact.
Glancing around the enormous ballroom decorated to festive overload while he pretended not to be searching for the saucy wench, his gaze swept over the throngs of laughing, merry guests. The excessively joyous mood in the room was something he found both mildly intriguing yet slightly nauseating. His alpha was mated and married now, and was by all accounts just as excessively happy as the mood here. Not that Jackson begrudged his pack's leader, and his own best friend, that sort of bliss. Trevor more than deserved it after his decades of tightly bottled grief.
It was just the general concept of being elatedly mated that made Jackson a bit—fidgety. The word “mate” did not go with Jackson Rule. Never had, never would. Not if he had his way. He damn well enjoyed being a wolf endlessly on the prowl for a good time.
Ruefully, he touched his cheek again. Being on the prowl for a good time apparently was what had earned him that resounding slap earlier. It had been delivered in front of the entire pack and a multitude of guests, as well. Quite the welcome home, and from a she-wolf he'd always considered a part of his inner circle. A very trusted packmate, if not exactly a close friend.
Jackson wasn't friends with women. Not real friends. How did one do that, when women were all soft and pretty and sexy and much too fascinating, so much so that he always got distracted around them? Generally speaking, he couldn't have a real conversation with a woman. It usually ended up being a far more physical encounter. As it should be.
Except for this one particular woman. He'd always managed to talk to her easily, since due to very solid reasons there'd never been a diverting undercurrent of animal attraction between them. Until now. And he still wasn't quite sure how he'd managed to so thoroughly enrage her, especially since he hadn't even been here for two weeks.
I've never even kissed the woman,
he thought yet agains, simultaneously intrigued and mystified by that very fact. Every other woman in the world he'd ever pissed off, he'd always kissed first. That apparently at least gave them a legitimate reason to become enraged with whatever they later found to be lacking in his words or actions.
This one? Not even once had his lips touched hers.
Not, howe er, for lack of his very recent, totally unquenchable desire to do just that. Only a lifetime of understanding that this particular she-wolf was beyond off-limits, not to mention his own utter surprise at the situation, had kept him from acting on his suddenly raging hormones around her.
Casually, he allowed himself to glance over yet again at the vixen in question. She was making her rounds of the room, looking exactly like a cat in heat. A furious, beautiful cat, but definitely a cat in heat. Not that he would ever say something like that to her. Comparing the delicious, deadly sister of an alpha wolf to a cat was something that would definitely would get his eyes clawed out. First she'd slice open his face, then her brother the alpha would disembowel Jackson on the spot.
Nope. Keeping this sweet vixen at a distance was more than smart. It was his only option.
Right then, the sweet vixen in question swung her head and caught him looking at her. Gorgeous eyes narrowing, Tamsin Reginald glared daggers at him. Her expression was so fierce that if looks could kill, he'd be one hundred percent dead where he stood.
Without thinking, Jackson gave her his famous half-grin, the one that had been known to melt the panties right off of unsuspecting women in the way of his charming smile.
Nope. Didn't work on Tamsin. If anything, he now could practically feel his skin peel from the blistering heat of her furious gaze.
"Earth to Jackson,” a voice broke into his thoughts. “The bendy-twisty redhead on the beach? Finish telling us about her." The speaker gave a lascivious grin as he elbowed his companion. “Sounds like she was very talented.”
Jackson looked back at Mac and Finn, automatically laughing with them as he continued their conversation with all the casualness he definitely was not feeling. “She was hot. Hot, willing, and naked on the white sand beaches under the full moon. How was I supposed to say no to that? I have a reputation to uphold after all.”
His reputation had ensured long, lazy days spent lounging on the pristine white beaches of the private island his alpha had sent him to, followed by wild nights of the debauchery for which he was famed. He'd fully lived up to the legend of Jackson Rule. Hordes of shifter groupies had bombarded him on the island, vying for his attentions with the sort of eagerness that a mere month ago he would've found completely fulfilling and satisfying as he went through them, one by one. Or sometimes two at a time, maybe even three or four if he was particularly lucky. “My reputation remains intact,” he added, still keeping the grin on his face.
To himself, though, he snorted in utter self-disgust and another twinge of his fascinated attention on the only woman in the world who might be able to ruin said reputation.
It wasn't as if he could let anyone know he was questioning his wild renown for the first time ever. Not when he didn't know exactly what was happening here.
But yes, this was what Jackson Rule was known for. He was the ladykiller. The charming wolf shifter who, as salacious lore had it, had slept with thousands of eager and willing conquests, both within the boundaries of the Wicked Mountain Wolf Shifters pack as well as a large swath of the country. All the way from here to the Caribbean.
Or so those words had been flung at him, the sharp taste of bitterness underlying the usually cool tones as the speaker had launched her verbal grenade right before he left for his much-needed few weeks of rest and relaxation. “Go ahead, Jackson. Fuck every shifter groupie between here and the islands. It's what you're good at, isn't it?”
Those words had stayed with him during his entire vacation, haunting him even as he did his damned best to live right up to them.
Tamsin wasn't his girlfriend. Or his mate. Or anyone he'd ever had a moment's interest in, up until the abruptly and unexpectedly charged moment they'd shared the night she threw those words at him. He owed her nothing. Damed straight, he'd lived the high life as usual during his trip. Enjoyed women and wine, resting and relaxing, dining and debauchery.
And none of it had done a single thing to put the thoroughly off-limits, and apparently suddenly all-consuming, Tamsin out of his mind.
Damn it all to fucking hell and back. He slid his gaze toward her yet again, still feeling the sting on his cheek where her fury had connected with him just moments before his alpha had wed his human mate.
Yes, Tamsin Reginald had ruined him for all other women, and he'd never even tasted her sweet skin. What the hell was his problem? Clearly, he was losing his touch. Or his mind. Or both.
"So go on, man," said Finn, the usual self-satisfied smile plastered on his face. Finn was a ladies' man himself, happy with his middle-of-the-pack status and a lifetime still to be filled with wooing eager women. "Keep telling us about the redhead. I've never been with a redhead," he mused, glancing around the room full of both shifters and humans. "Don't think we've ever had one from Wicked Mountain Town. And since I'm not the beta to our alpha, I'm not allowed luxurious vacations on islands filled with shifter groupies ready and willing to fulfill my every last desire."
Flanking Finn's other side, as always, blond, laid-back Mac laughed. "Keep working at it, Finn," he said. "One day, you'll curry enough favor with the alpha to be afforded the same sort of treatment as our superstar shifter here."
From any other werewolf in the pack, these words could be construed as a challenge. A subtle prodding at the strength of the second most powerful wolf in the pack. But Mac was no threat. Jackson was friendly enough with him, and knew the man well enough to understand that Mac was actually one of the good guys. He didn't use the human females in the pack in the way some of the other male wolves might, demanding a night's pleasure without ever reciprocating any feelings a woman might develop for the wolf in question. By all accounts, Mac apparently was tender with the ladies. For that reason alone, all women, both human and shifter, fell like flies at his feet. Even more amazingly, they always stayed genuinely friendly with him afterward.
Jackson shook his head. He definitely was not friends with any of the women he'd ever bedded. He might not satisfy their romantic cravings, but he always made sure they walked away with a smile. It was the only right thing to do. Of course, that didn't keep him from getting slapped now and then.
But he'd never before been slapped for
touching a woman at all.
Shoving away the thought, he focused on something he could control: pack politics, no matter how subtle. "I feel fairly secure in my position," he said casually, directing his glance at Finn. His words were just slightly barbed. "I will never betray my alpha, and he knows that. Between myself and the alpha's sister, the leadership of this pack is more secure than all the gold in Fort Knox. Am I not right, friend?"
This time, his own words were a direct challenge to Finn and his comment about being close enough to the alpha to earn a fancy destination on his time off.
Finn casually threw up his hands in mock surrender, shaking his head as he cast his eyes quickly to the floor, then backed up again in a brief yet deliberate show of submission in front of the powerful pack beta. "The leadership of this pack is never in question, Jackson. Nor is your position within it." He grinned and waggled his eyebrows, swerving the moment back into casual celebration mode. "All I'm wishing for is a little bit of the charmed life you seem to live. Feel free to lend me some. The pleasures of our pack have grown somewhat stale, beautiful as they may be."
All three men glanced around the inside of the spacious ballroom they stood within. The ballroom was a sufficiently as grand as its name. With a marbled dance floor, enormous windows that looked out over the valley sprawling in the river mist below them, and decorated in the style that would probably put the royal family of England to shame, it deliberately flaunted the immense wealth of the pack.
All the women sprinkled throughout the room, wolf shifters and humans alike, exuded beauty, youth, eagerness, or sheer intrigue. The pack was over three hundred strong, and it did indeed contain a multitude of female delights. Werewolves in general were a notoriously randy bunch. The Wicked Mountain Wolf Pack was certainly no exception. Alpha Trevor Reginald was a stickler for old-fashioned ways. And old-fashioned packs lived far closer to their primal values than most modern packs. Primal values that included a lot of debauchery and fun for all involved.
Finn was quite right about the allures to be had here. Jackson had sampled most of them. It was his duty to please females, right? Healthy appetite for the pleasures of the flesh, coupled with long lifespans, ensured that both male and female wolf shifters enjoyed their lives.
Yet despite the front he had put up over the past several weeks, somewhere deep inside himself Jackson suspected his carefree days had ended. All because of one beautiful, ferocious, exasperating, and completely forbidden she-wolf he had never once touched, and now found he couldn't get out of his every damned waking thought no matter how hard he tried.
The idea was positively terrifying.
"So," Mac said casually, his tone immediately alerting both Jackson and Finn that he was about to say something interesting. "Just between you and us, what the hell was up with that, ah,
greeting you received from the alpha's sister?"
A sudden silence descended. Jackson sensed both interest as well as small amount of trepidation from both of them. They were quite intrigued as to what his answer would be. Even Mac, who more so than most wolves in the pack generally could behave in a somewhat more casual way around Jackson, and sometimes even the alpha, knew he might be slightly overstepping the line here.
Jackson thought that he narrowed his eyes at each of them,
exactly does Mac think he's treading on fragile ground right now?
"I guess she just doesn't like my face," he finally answered after a sufficiently long pause, shrugging one shoulder. He forced himself to be the picture of indifference, although he prickled with intensity at just the thought of Tamsin Reginald, with her wild mane of dark hair and those flashing blue eyes.
Mac slowly started to shake his head, his features for once not as playful as they usually were. "Jackson, don't take this the wrong way, but that's some live dynamite you're messing with there. Whatever you said to her, you might want to take back."
Now Jackson frowned and crossed his arms across his chest, tightening the formal jacket across his shoulders. Twitching slightly from the restrictive feeling, he simply stared at Mac for a long moment as he tried to ignore the torture of wearing stupidly snug attire he normally never would. The alpha's mate, and now wife, was human, and she'd apparently wished for some human trappings at her mating/marriage ceremony. Tamsin had relayed Cassandra's requests for guest attire to Jackson and everyone else in the pack in no uncertain terms. The unspoken implication, naturally, was that Jackson would obey his alpha without hesitation, and wear whatever damn thing the alpha's mate wanted him to.