Alpha instinct, p.3
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       Alpha Instinct, p.3

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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  “You need protection. ” He and Liam had discussed things earlier, but now that he was actually sitting in front of her, he wondered how well his proposition would go over.

  Her dark eyebrows rose. “Oh, really?”

  “There are no males left in your pack and you are not an Alpha. ” She might be an alpha in nature but she didn’t have the cutthroat qualities it took to lead a pack. It was one of the things he loved about her. She had a steel backbone but was still soft and empathetic, sometimes letting her heart rule her decisions. Or at least that’s how he remembered her. “And if Taggart’s attempted attack on you tonight was any indication, I’d wager he’s been trying to unite his pack with yours for a while. Am I wrong?”

  She shrugged noncommittally.

  “It’s only a matter of time before someone else comes sniffing around looking to claim control of the Cordona women. ” He paused, hoping she’d say something. She knew the Council’s rules as well as he did, and he didn’t want to spell it out to her. Once a pack was officially formed the Alpha in charge was basically supposed to self-govern and deal with internal problems alone. Now that Ana’s Alpha was dead, they were still considered a pack, but they couldn’t continue much longer without an official leader.

  “And you’d like to take on the role of our protectors? Out of the goodness of your heart?” Mistrust crept into those dark eyes, and his gut clenched.

  “Over the years Liam and I have … done well for ourselves. We’ve formed our own pack—one recognized by the Council—and we’re looking to settle down somewhere. Put down roots. All of our packmates are of the warrior class. We have a lot to bring to the table. ” Years ago he’d had nothing to offer her. At least now he was more than a lone mongrel with no pack and no real money, trying to win her heart.

  “What do you want in exchange for your protection?”

  “A place to live and work peacefully. ”

  “What about the males of your pack? I don’t know anything about them. Are they trustworthy?”

  He understood what she was asking even though she didn’t spell it out. “I respect man’s laws and the Council’s laws. No female will be forced into any union they don’t want. ”

  She relaxed against the couch and absently tapped her finger against the armrest. “I’ll need time to think about this. ”

  “There is one more thing. If we do this, you’ll no longer be known as the Cordona pack. We will all unite as the Armstrong pack. ”

  Her head tipped slightly to the side and her luscious mouth pulled into a thin line. “Like you said, if we do this—and that’s a big if—we’ll be called the Armstrong-Cordona pack. ” It wasn’t a question.

  He looked at his brother, who grinned slightly and nodded. Connor had known she wouldn’t acquiesce that easily. Something deep inside him had always told him he’d run his own pack one day. Now he understood it was his inner wolf, his Alpha begging to get out. While he might not have liked her old man, the name Cordona was still hers, and linking their names wasn’t exactly a hardship. If it got her to accept his protection, he’d do it. “Fine. I also have another stipulation. If and when we combine, I take the mate of my choosing. Immediately. ”

  Ana’s dark eyes flashed with something he couldn’t put his finger on, but then it was gone. “I’m surprised you’re not mated by now. No one will be forced, but my sisters and cousins have all grown into beautiful women. I don’t think you’ll have any problem convincing—”

  “Ana, I don’t think you understand what I’m saying. You are mine. ” He hated thinking that she’d been mated to another wolf, but at least they hadn’t been bondmates. If they had been, she’d still carry his mark and possibly his scent. Sometimes even death couldn’t wipe away a bondmate’s scent. Though her mate was now dead, Connor wanted to bury whoever he was all over again. No one else would ever touch what was his.

  Her head snapped back up. He wanted to kick himself at the way he’d spoken to her, but he couldn’t take back the words now. She was his. It was about damn time she figured that out.

  “I don’t understand. You want to mate with me?” The question came out breathy and seductive as hell. And laced with shock. He couldn’t ignore the not-so-subtle wave that rolled off her.

  Even Liam raised his eyebrows at his bluntness and found a spot on the coffee table to stare at.

  Connor ignored his brother. He had to refrain from growling as he stared at Ana. “I want you as my bondmate. ”

  That got her attention. Her spine went ramrod straight. Plenty of shifters mated but they didn’t all bond. Mated shifters could leave if they wanted to, much like how humans divorced one another. Bonding united their kind for life. Even if one of them wanted to leave, they’d be marked and another wolf wouldn’t touch either one of them. It was a big decision and one he knew she wouldn’t make lightly. But when he took her as his mate he wanted her completely.

  “Bondmate?” The word sounded almost angry.

  He abruptly stood. “I don’t expect your answer right away. We’ll let ourselves out, but we’ll be back in the morning to introduce everyone. ”

  Frowning, she nodded.

  Once they were outside, Liam punched his arm. And not softly.

  He glared at him. “What are you, twelve?” he muttered.

  “What the hell was that?” his brother growled.

  Connor shrugged and ignored the heated look his brother shot him. “I laid out the stipulations. ”

  “That was not part of the plan. You were supposed to give her a chance to warm up to the idea of mating with you. Then you were going to ask that she bond. Not demand it. Damn it, Connor. You’re such a fucking Neanderthal. ”

  He clenched his jaw. It probably wasn’t the best decision he’d ever made, but as far as he was concerned his brother was lucky he’d shown as much control as he had. Ana and her family had rejected him once, but things had finally come full circle. It might be selfish to demand her submission now when she was at her weakest, but he couldn’t walk away from her. Not again. “What’s done is done. Let’s go check on the men. ”

  His brother muttered something about him being a stubborn asshole, but continued walking with him. The memory of Ana’s sweet scent and the shock in her wide brown eyes rolled over him. He should have eased her into things, but walking away right now was taking all the restraint he possessed. The wolf inside him wanted to take her hard and rough, then soft and gentle. For hours. Until neither of them could walk or think straight.

  The houses and cabins surrounding the ranch fanned out in a circle around the main house. They were far enough apart that the pack members had some privacy, but close enough that they could alert one another if there was trouble. It was like a little village.

  Liam nudged him and nodded toward one of the distant fields. “Hey, what—”

  They both paused as an orange ball lit up the sky. “Fire!”

  Chapter 2

  Connor’s heart pounded an erratic tattoo against his chest as he raced back for the main house. He banged on the front door, then opened it.

  From the entryway Analena glared at him. “What the—”

  “Fire. In the west field. Not close to the buildings, but that could change. ”

  Wordlessly she turned and fled up the stairs. Seconds later she came barreling back down with her two sisters, Noel and Carmen. Erin wasn’t too far behind.

  “What precautions do you have set up?” he asked as they jogged toward the barn housing the horses.

  “I’ve got a stockade of fire extinguishers and blankets in the barn. If the fire gets out of control, we’ve got vehicles prepared to transport the animals. ”

  “Good. I’m going to get Liam. ”

  Nodding, she didn’t break stride as she headed for the barn.

  He’d sent his brother to round up the rest of his pack. At least the wind had shown mercy on them and died down. Despite the slightly damp
ground, he’d noticed how thick her pasture was. The recently wet weather had probably prevented her from doing contained burns earlier in the year. A fire could still lap up this foliage. And fast.

  One shift in the wind and the now small fire could spread out of control all the way to the mountains. He couldn’t let that happen. He’d come here to take care of her, and that was what he was going to do.

  As he neared the cabins on the south end of the circle, Liam and his seven men streamed out, half-dressed.

  “They’ve got fire extinguishers in the barn. Grab a couple each. ” He turned on his heel after shouting the order. His guys wouldn’t need to be told twice.

  He risked a quick glance in the direction of the field as he sprinted toward the barn. Flames painted the field in a bath of orange and yellow, but it didn’t look out of control yet. When he raced inside, he found Carmen and Noel passing extinguishers to their packmates.

  Wordlessly each female took one and raced out the other end of the building. They were like a well-oiled machine.

  “Give me two and give my guys two,” he said as Carmen handed him one. Ana wasn’t anywhere to be seen, so he guessed she was already at the fire.

  Panic bubbled inside him but he forced it back down. This fire wasn’t an accident. If he had to guess, he’d say that bastard Taggart had set it. Maybe in an attempt to scare him off, or maybe as punishment for Ana. He didn’t know and he didn’t care. This type of shit wasn’t going to happen under his watch.

  Whoever had set it better pray they weren’t still hanging around. If he scented anyone who didn’t belong, they were going to pay tonight.

  His boots pounded over the grass. As he neared the fire, his spirits lifted a fraction. The women had formed a giant half circle and started dousing the blaze. It had grown to the size of a small swimming pool, but it was fairly well contained.

  As he raced around to the other side and unleashed a stream of white foam from an extinguisher, he realized Ana wasn’t there. He couldn’t see in the pitch-black, but thanks to his extrasensory abilities he could see better than humans. Though he didn’t want to leave, he set the extinguisher down and hurried away from the fire when he spotted Ana racing across the dark field. Still in her human form, she was full-out sprinting toward the fence line.

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