Authors: Jacqueline Rhoades
Tags: #paranormal romance, #wolves, #werewolves, #alphas, #wolvers
"Damnit to hell," Doc mumbled under his
Jazz looked up at him, wondering what she'd
done now to make him swear. He wasn't looking at her, but at the
man on the steps who was gesticulating wildly and shouting at
whoever stood above him on the porch.
As they came closer, she could see the person
on the porch was an older man dressed in new looking denim overalls
who was the recipient of the shouter's venom. By the scars on his
face, Jazz could tell he'd fought a few rounds in his younger days.
His shoulders and arms were still powerful looking, but his hair
was gray and much of his chest had sunk to his belly. He held out
his hands in a placating gesture.
"Now just settle down, Wilson."
"I'll settle down when we get this settled,"
the man on the stairs shouted. "We need to settle this."
Jazz recognized the voice as Rogers, the man
who had argued with her grizzly that morning. He was the cause of
Doc's cursing. The man on the porch was making an obvious effort to
be polite, but the look on his hardened face made it just as
obvious he was losing the battle.
"We're wasting time," Roger shouted, "Wasting
time, I say," and Jazz wondered if he was the kind of man who
thought shouting made him sound more important or if it was for the
crowd's benefit. She decided it was the former since he'd shouted
at Doc when only a few friends were standing close enough to hear
"Aw, Rog, she just got here last night,"
someone called from the crowd.
"And already instigated a disturbance at the
tavern and attacked two of our own. Attacked! She's from off and we
don't need her kind here." Roger now had his hands on his hips and
was turned toward the crowd.
"Being from off ain't nothing. Half this pack
is from off." The speaker was a younger woman holding a child by
"I suppose that accounts for the half he's
not related to," Jazz whispered and she saw the beard around Doc's
mouth twitch. "I gather 'from off' means an outsider."
"You gathered rightly."
Doc tugged on her hand and pulled her forward
just as the screen door opened and an old man shuffled out with the
help of a cane. He was followed by an old woman whose gray hair was
plated in a braid that fell to her waist. Of the two, she was the
stronger and she helped the old man to the rocker that sat beside
the door. She took her place next to him with her hand on his
shoulder and looked ferociously out over the crowd, but said
"Rog Wilson, you want to be the Alpha, you
either challenge me now or stand by and wait your turn. If you
ain't here to kill me, then you'd best learn to tell time. I said I
was holding Court at three o'clock and I meant it. Milt?" he asked
the man in the overalls, "What time is it?"
Milt fished in his pocket and came up with a
pocket watch. He clicked it open. "Three o'clock, Alpha," he said
with a satisfied smile.
The Alpha nodded. "There you go then. Court's
in session." He looked over the crowd. "Seems like we got us a big
ol' whoop-tee-do over some young woman invading our territory. She
"She certainly is, Alpha, and you need to…"
Wilson began, but the Alpha cut him off.
"I know it pains you to use one word when a
dozen would suit ya, but that was a yes or no question, Roger, and
it was aimed at the lady herself."
Jazz felt a tug on her hand before she
answered, "I'm here, Alpha." Another tug had her walking toward the
porch. This wasn't how her father held court.
"Come on up here where I can get a good look
at you, honey."
Jazz approached warily, glad of the big paw
holding her hand. The Alpha was smiling, but her father always
smiled, too, right before he struck. This Alpha was old, ancient,
but to retain his power, he had to have support, otherwise Roger
Wilson would be sitting there now. Her father didn't always do his
own dirty work either.
The Mate was smiling, too, only there was no
mistaking the friendliness in her grin. Her cheeks crinkled into
leathery creases and her blue eyes danced under straight dark
brows. Her fingers danced, too, where they rested on her Alpha's
shoulder, a light tat-a-tat-tat that made Jazz want to tap her
It was the Mate who freed the breath that had
stuck in Jazz's chest. She stepped forward and faced the Alpha.
"My name is Jazz Phillips and I only intended
to stop for the night and be on my way, but everything I had was
stolen and I can't move on until I can think of a way to make that
"Your home, your pack? You can't turn to
them?" the old Alpha asked quietly. His sharp gray eyes seemed to
look through her.
Jazz shook her head. She'd rather turn rogue
and make her way alone and packless before she'd return to what her
father had in store.
The Alpha turned to the big wolver at her
side. "You can let her go now, son. She's not going to run and my
teeth ain't sharp enough to bite," he chuckled softly. "I thought
you said we could expect a man."
The grizzly dropped her hand like it was a
flapjack hot off the griddle. She'd forgotten he'd been holding
"That's what Eugene Begley led me to believe;
a man with a release on his way to join a new pack out East. I was
as surprised as you are," Doc said.
"Don't know about that, son. Takes a whole
lot to surprise a wolver old as me. This pack out East, you
familiar with it?"
"I am," Doc answered, but he offered nothing
"And you thought it was a man with a
"Well, it appears you were wrong about the
first. What about the second? You got a release from your pack,
"No, sir." Jazz looked the Alpha straight in
the eye. There was no point lying about it. A release to join
another pack only came in one of two ways; with the Alpha's
blessing or through a mating and she had neither.
Wilson raised his fist and shouted, "I told
you this was wrong! Wrong, I say. Maybe now you'll listen to me.
She's outcast or she's rogue. We got enough trouble with them
rogues over the hill. We don't need one in our midst."
The Alpha ignored him and continued to look
at Jazz. "You outcast or rogue?"
"I'm not outcast," she answered, "At least I
wasn't when I left." After stealing the motorcycle and the money,
she might be now.
Outcasts were those wolvers who'd been
banished from the pack for committing serious crimes against it.
Without a pack to support them, most outcasts turned rogue; lone
wolvers who sometimes banded together to form an outlaw gang.
"I guess technically I'm rogue, but it wasn't
my intention to stay that way. I couldn't stay where I was. I
couldn't do what they wanted me to do."
"You see? She admits it. She's rogue. Rogue.
I told you so."
Jazz had to step back as the Alpha stood
surprisingly fast for a man his age. He pointed the tip of his cane
out into the crowd directly at Roger Wilson.
"When I want your opinion, I'll ask for it,
but if I was you, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to
happen. Now, just in case you missed it the first time, I'm
a-telling you that this is Court with a capital C and I'll have no
more interruptions. One more, Roger Wilson, and I'll fine you fifty
dollars and you'll find yourself picking up leavings for Miz Ezzy's
boys for the next two weeks. Are you hearing me?"
Wilson grunted in reply.
The old man drew himself up to his full
height and Jazz could feel the power rolling off of him, not as
strong as her father's but there was no mistaking what it was. It
was the power of the Alpha.
"I said, are you hearing me?" The Alpha asked
Wilson's head bowed just a fraction and he
muttered, "Yes, Alpha."
The Mate had disappeared into the house at
the beginning of the exchange and now returned with a glass of gold
tinted water which she handed to the Alpha. She was rewarded with a
nod and a smile that lit up her eyes even further. Everything
stopped for a moment as the Alpha and his Mate locked eyes.
Jazz had never seen such a look pass between
a couple before and it touched her in a way she'd never felt
before. These two old people were more than Alpha and Mate and that
one nod and smile was like a secret passing between them, something
special and pure. They loved each other, deeply. She didn't realize
she was staring until the Alpha's voice called her back.
"What do you have to say about the trouble
you caused this morning?"
"I didn't cause it."
"I think we scared her, Alpha. We didn't mean
to," a woman's voice piped. It was Ellie, the woman from the
"I wasn't scared," Jazz snapped.
Jazz felt her grizzly stiffen beside her and
she could have sworn she heard him swear even though no sound
passed his lips.
"But I might've misunderstood," she amended
quickly. "I thought they wanted to hurt me and I wasn't going to
let them. I'm guessing I was wrong about that."
The grizzly started breathing again.
"I reckon you were, girl, and
misunderstanding or no, you caused some damage. I'm sentencing you
to two weeks helping Ellie with her laundry and a week helping
Donna set her garden out."
The Alpha had spoken and there was nothing
for it but to obey. "Yes, Sir," she said quietly, lowering her
"You got something to say?"
Startled, Jazz looked up to find the Alpha
looking up at the doctor.
"Yes. She needs a place to stay."
The Alpha laughed. "No, she don't. She's
staying with you, son. You brought her here. She's your
responsibility. Besides, you can afford the extra mouth to feed.
That means you also get to host the frolic on the next full moon.
You can introduce her to the pack."
"I don't run," Doc said cryptically.
"I know and it's time you did."
The Alpha's answer told Jazz no more than
Doc's comment except it made her grizzly look more like a bear than
The old Alpha tapped the arm of the rocking
chair. "That's it, Milt. We're done."
"Courts adjourned," Milt called to the crowd,
"Ya'll can go home now. There's no more to see."
Jazz felt a light touch to her shoulder and
turned to find the smiling Mate.
"I'm Miz Mary and I think you should stop by
for a visit real soon. I think you're someone I'd like to get to
hell's a frolic?" Jazz
asked as they walked back to the house. The sun was finally peeking
out from behind the clouds to give them a few moments of sparkling
light before it set behind the trees.
"It's a party they hold four times a year to
celebrate the full moon." He was growling again and she didn't know
"Shit," she said as she started thinking
about that disaster of a house and the holes and soft spots on the
porch and food. It was obvious he wasn't happy about this and
since, in a way, it was her fault he was stuck with it, she ought
to do what she could to help. "What kind of food do you have to
provide? I mean, is it a meal or just snacks?"
He looked down at her.
"Oh yeah, stupid question." Wolvers never
snacked. They ate. A lot. "How many people are we talking
"I don't know."
"What do you mean you don't know? How many
wolvers are in this pack?" If it was to celebrate the full moon, it
meant the men would be going over the moon, turning wolf. "What
about the women? Do they hang around after the men go over the
moon? What about cubs?"
"There are two hundred and fifty seven
wolvers in this pack. I can't answer the rest of your questions
because I don't know."
Jazz rolled her eyes. The grizzly was just
like all the other wolver men she'd ever known. Eat, drink, fuck,
and leave the rest to the women to take care of. Jazz stopped in
the middle of the road, put her hands on her hips and waited until
he realized she was no longer at his side. Then she spoke.
"I understand you're not happy about this and
that you probably blame me for it and I'm willing to do whatever I
can to make it easier on you, but you've got to give me some help
here. I've never been to one of these things. You have."
"No. I haven't. I've only gone over the moon
up here a half dozen times and I've never been to a full moon
"A half dozen times? Hell, I've gone over the
moon more than that and I only get to go once a year. What are you,
forty five? Fifty?" Jazz stopped, looked at the sky and wiggled her
fingers in a calculating gesture "Damn, you should have gone over
at least four hundred and twenty times and that's not counting the
number of times your Alpha might have taken you over outside the
All Alpha's had the power to do that. Her
father used it as a reward for the highest earner. He could take
women, too, but he never did, not even his Mate.
"Shit, Griz, what's wrong with you?"
They'd reached the front porch and Doc turned
with his hand on the door knob. "Nothing's wrong with me and I am
not forty five or fifty," he said, clearly offended, "I'm thirty
seven. I said up here, not all together and where'd you come up
with four hundred and twenty? And," he drew the word out to prove
he wasn't finished, "Do you think you can say one complete sentence
She removed his hand from the knob and let
herself in. "Hell, Griz," she laughed as she squeezed by him, "I
say plenty of sentences without fucking cuss words. You just don't
listen for shit." She laughed again as he groaned and followed her
in, shaking his head. She leaned down and looked up into his face,
showing him her thumb and finger spread about an inch apart. "Aw,
come on, Griz, it was a little funny. You can laugh."