Bad Blood

By: Shannon West

Prologue


It was a damn cold night. With his breath smoking up the frigid air in front of him, Blaine stumbled into the clearing, surrounded on all sides by his enemies. One of the guards walking beside him gave him another hard shove, since he apparently wasn’t moving fast enough for them. He lurched forward and almost fell, righting himself desperately at the last moment and sending a look of black defiance over his shoulder at the one who’d pushed him.

“I’m going, damn it! Give me a chance.”

The guard, who towered over Blaine by at least four inches, replied by putting both hands on the collar of Blaine’s shirt and jerking down hard, pulling his shirt over his shoulders to his waist, the buttons popping off like little projectiles. He pushed it down in back to cover Blaine’s tightly bound wrists.

“Ow! What the hell, asshole? Are you hoping I’ll freeze to death and save you the trouble?” The big man didn’t reply, not that Blaine thought he would. They were a taciturn bunch of bastards. Maybe they didn’t want to enflame Blaine’s pack any more than they already were by exposing his chains, or maybe the guard was just fucking with him. He certainly wasn’t trying to spare Blaine any more humiliation, because they seemed to thrive on that. The guard gave Blaine a shove that almost sent him to his knees again.

“You know, I’m beginning to get a little sick of you,” Blaine muttered, not entirely under his breath. He looked around the clearing, peering through the murkiness beyond the light of the bonfire to see his tormentors. After the darkness of the basement, the bright flames in the center of the circle hurt his eyes and cast otherworldly shadows around the clearing.

As he got closer, he saw a few familiar, well-loved faces near the perimeter of the circle. Some of his pack were there, their eyes full of fear. Mostly it was the women, children and old ones—only a handful of his gamma soldiers. These must be the ones who had surrendered when the lodge was overrun, during the final desperate fight with the Dire Wolves and in the face of overwhelming odds. Most of the others who had been captured, along with Blaine himself, had been thrown into the frigid basement in chains. Others were missing altogether, and he hoped they’d been able to get away. Why he, the alpha of the pack, hadn’t been executed right away, he still had no idea, unless the Dire Wolf alpha wanted to make an example of him in front of these witnesses.

Blaine could see the tall, muscular figure of the alpha by the huge bonfire ahead of him. The shadows made it difficult to see his face, but he was sure it was Kerrick, his mortal enemy. Since this strange, ancient pack of wolves had moved into Blaine’s territory, nothing had been the same, and now would never be again. His pack of Gray Wolves had fought hard to drive the invaders from their home, but in the end, the Dires had been too strong, their numbers too great. Now his own life would be forfeit, and he could only hope Kerrick would make this public execution quick. Blaine would at least try to die well—it was the last thing he could do for his pack.

He allowed himself to be pushed down to his knees in front of Kerrick, but he raised his head defiantly and glared up at him, trying to convey every drop of the fury he felt toward the man.

Blaine caught the gleam of Kerrick’s mocking smile as he stared down at him. “Blaine—we have to stop meeting like this. One of these days I’ll either have to kill you or fuck you.”

“One would be as unpleasant as the other.”

One of the guards cuffed him hard on the back of his head. Kerrick snarled at the man. “Leave him alone—this one is mine to deal with.”

“Then deal with me, damn it!” Blaine shouted. “Take your best shot! If you’re going to kill me, then get it the hell over with, don’t talk me to death.”

Kerrick leaned over until his lips brushed Blaine’s ear, his breath hot against his skin. “Kill you? It would be a shame to destroy someone like you. I’m not going to kill you, Blaine—I’m going to claim you. From this moment on, you’ll belong to me, mind, body and spirit. And make no mistake—you’ll be my bitch.”

Before Blaine could react, Kerrick pulled him to his feet and twisted him around to face the throng of onlookers. Pulling Blaine’s body up tight against his own, he wrapped his massive arms around him like iron bands. His strength was incredible. Blaine was six feet tall himself and no lightweight, but this huge alpha manhandled him as if he were a child.

“I claim this pack and everyone in it as a prize of war. From this moment on, the Gray Wolf pack is no more. We’re taking over your home and your territory. All the Gray Wolf survivors will be offered to the Dire Pack as mates. You’ll become one of us, and your blood will mix with our own.”

Blaine heard the shocked gasps and cries of his pack and dropped his gaze, too devastated to look into their eyes. He could only hang within the hard grip of Kerrick’s arms, his knees too weak to hold him up properly as Kerrick made his final pronouncement. “I claim Blaine, your former alpha, as my prize—and take him for my mate.”

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