Alpha instinct, p.49
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       Alpha Instinct, p.49

         Part #1 of Moon Shifter series by Katie Reus
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Page 49

 

  Vince looked back at the other wolves, who moved around nervously in the snow. After a moment he nodded, almost to himself. Jaw set, he faced Connor and Taggart. Connor hadn’t made a move to kill Taggart yet and she knew it was because he respected their laws.

  “This will be a Nex Pugna!” Vince shouted loud enough for all the wolves to hear. A death fight.

  “You son of a bitch,” Taggart growled.

  “Sack up, boss. If you can’t do this the right way, you don’t deserve to be our Alpha. ” Vince’s voice shook as he spoke. At least he’d stood up to the treacherous wolf, but if his Alpha won, it would be certain death for him.

  Ana gained a little respect for the other wolf even though all she cared about at the moment was her mate. They might not officially be bonded but he was hers. She felt it to her core.

  Connor circled Taggart as he stripped off his clothes and shifted form with the speed of an Alpha. Connor would have loved nothing more than to rip off Taggart’s head when he’d jumped him moments ago, but Taggart was also an Alpha. They had to fight properly. It was the way of their kind, and if he couldn’t respect his own laws his pack wouldn’t respect him.

  When he’d gotten that message from Ana that she was meeting Taggart alone, decades of his life had been shaved off. The thought of losing her before he’d gotten a chance to tell her he loved her made him tremble.

  No longer a man, Taggart stood before Connor, a brown-and-white wolf. Hulking and dangerous.

  Out of the corner of his eye he could see his wolves and Taggart’s pack encircle them. Whoever survived, the victor would be respected. There would be no more bloodshed around here after today, and hopefully never again.

  Taggart was already dead. He just didn’t know it. Connor should have hunted him down that night he’d arrived and caught him assaulting Ana. It was one of the few regrets he had in life.

  But Ana—his sweet Ana, who felt she had to be strong for everyone—had told him not to. He didn’t want her watching this, but she was right. She was his mate and needed to see his strength. See what he was capable of.

  Keeping his head low, he stalked to his right. With his guys watching his back, he wasn’t worried about being flanked.

  Taggart also moved to his right, circling him.

  They could dodge and dance around all day. The end result would be the same. Connor braced himself for the pain as he went on the offensive.

  Taggart started to duck away again but Connor lunged at him. Using all the strength from his hind legs, he launched forward, right at the other wolf.

  The brown-and-white wolf snarled but kept its neck down as Connor tackled him. Claws dug into his side and underbelly with ripping agony.

  He ignored it. As he swiped at Taggart’s face, he extended his claws and slashed one of his eyes. The blinding blow would enrage him, which is what Connor hoped for.

  Taggart’s actions today were erratic and insane. Connor would never understand why Taggart was so unstable but he didn’t really care. The shifter was just plain evil. Trying to kidnap another Alpha’s mate was asking for bloodshed.

  When the other wolf dug his claws deeper into Connor’s belly, he rolled off him and pounced onto his feet a few feet away. Blood dripped down Taggart’s face. Connor growled in approval.

  The sound must have pissed off Taggart, because he lunged. The strike was calculated, but with his eye damaged his timing was off. As he flew through the air, Connor went for his neck. He missed his target but clamped on to one of Taggart’s front legs.

  As he did, Taggart’s claws ripped through the side of his neck. Letting go of the leg, Connor bit back a growl and dodged to the side, preparing for another attack.

  A piercing scream ripped through the air.

  His heart stopped at the sound. Ana. Before he could process anything, Ana’s delicate arms wrapped around Taggart’s neck as she tried to tackle him. What the hell is she doing?

  Taggart snarled, and with a startling blow he swiped at her shoulder with one of his paws, sending her flying.

  She landed in the snow with a soft thud but was motionless. Connor saw red. Bloody, crimson rage rolled over him. He wanted to go to her but knew it would be certain death if he turned his back on Taggart.

  Lowering himself, he launched at Taggart and slammed his head into the other Alpha. The other wolf jerked back, taken by surprise.

  At the same time Connor dug his claws into Taggart’s chest. Each time the wolf tried to move, the deeper and deeper he dug into his chest cavity.

  The action was too much to bear. Taggart howled and tried to jerk out of his grasp but Connor wouldn’t let go. Unlike his regular-wolf counterpart, he had claws. Using his strength, he extended them even farther into the other Alpha’s body.

  Taggart bit him, pulling away fur and skin from his shoulder.

  But Connor held fast. The pain would be worth the victory. Taggart dead. He envisioned it in his head. The other wolf would die today.

  When Taggart thrashed, Connor didn’t give up the opportunity to strike. The other wolf howled as he tried to wrench away once again. In doing so, he exposed his neck.

  Connor struck fast and hard.

  He tasted fur, skin and blood as he slammed his jaw shut. The coppery liquid filled his mouth but he didn’t let go.

  As Taggart struggled against his hold, he sliced into Connor’s side. Connor felt as if razors had ripped through him but the agony was worth it.

  Then Taggart stopped moving. The bottom half of his body wilted against the cold ground. Connor held on for a moment longer, then shook his limp neck before releasing him.

  Standing over the dead wolf, he slowly turned in a circle to face the rest of the shifters. The wolves from Taggart’s pack dropped to their bellies, and even Vince got on his knees and ducked his head.

  Little pinpricks of pain shimmied through him as he stalked toward Ana. He hadn’t seen her move, but she’d gotten up and now stood by her horse. She must have only been stunned by the blow.

  It was as if small daggers had been embedded in his skin. When he shifted back to human form the pain would be that much worse. But he needed to touch Ana. To feel her soft skin under his fingers. Once he reached her, he shifted to his human form. It was asinine. He knew that. He was injured and would heal a hell of a lot faster in animal form, but he didn’t care. His beast and human sides were in agreement for once. They wanted to hold Ana.

  And let her hold him.

  “Connor! What are you doing?” She reached out for him, wrapping her arms around his waist.

  A wave of nausea rolled over him as he stumbled against her. “What were you thinking?” he murmured softly against her ear. Jumping into the middle of two Alphas fighting was not only dangerous, but if the Council found out she could face serious repercussions.

  “From where I was standing it looked like he’d bitten your neck. I thought you’d— I was afraid he’d— I couldn’t stop myself …” Her voice cracked as she trailed off.

  Using her as support, he held on tight but focused on Vince. Connor’s vision was a little blurred but at least he was alive. More important, Ana was safe. “Vince, I’ll be at your ranch in two days to discuss the future. Once I’ve met everyone, some of you will have the option to assimilate, and the Council will place the rest of you elsewhere. I’m coming in peace so I’d better get a peaceful reception. And that meth house Taggart has you guys running better be destroyed by then. If you’re into any other drugs or illegal activities, I want to know about it, and it will cease, starting now. ”

  Vince nodded and motioned toward his pack, who kept their heads low and their tails tucked as they walked back toward their property.

  Ana buried her face in his shoulder. “I can’t believe you killed him. ” A shudder of relief snaked through her. It was so potent he felt it as deeply as if it were his own body.

  “You
re sure you’re okay?” He pulled her tight, then ran his hands over her face and down her arms. He couldn’t see any bruises but that didn’t mean anything. He’d smelled Taggart’s lust earlier. The thought of Taggart touching Ana made him want to kill the bastard all over again.

  “He didn’t hurt me. He would have if you hadn’t arrived—”

  “Meow. ”

  They both turned to find Vivian’s head poking out from under Ana’s fallen jacket. The little cat shivered and cried once she spotted them.

  “Shit. ” He started to pick her up but Ana beat him to it.

  Cuddling the she-cat close to her chest, she wrapped her other arm around his waist. “We need to get you back to the ranch and stop your bleeding. ”

  His strength was fading and he wasn’t inclined to argue with her. He motioned to Ryan and Noah to stay with the dead body as he retrieved Ana’s coat. He wrapped it around his waist, then started to help Ana mount the horse.

  She swatted him away with her free hand. “What are you doing? Get on the horse. I’ll walk. ”

  “She can hold us both. ”

  “Connor, you’re bleeding and—”

  “I’m not going to argue, Ana. Get on the damn horse. ” He was tired and he just wanted to feel her up against him.

  Maybe she understood that, because her expression softened and she let him help her and Vivian up. After they were seated, he swung up and bit back a cry of pain. Riding half-naked in the icy weather wasn’t going to help him heal any faster, but he needed to get back to the ranch as quickly as possible.

  For now he just wanted to hold Ana. She was safe and alive and that’s all he could ask for. As Adalita broke into a trot, he felt as if his insides would shake apart.

  Ana twisted in her seat to look at him. “Are you sure you don’t want me to bandage you? You’ve got—”

  “As soon as we get back, I promise you can do whatever you want to me. Okay?” She could wrap him up like a mummy if it made her happy. When she turned around he winced as more needles of pain shot through him.

  Connor! Where are you? Liam projected.

  He hadn’t had time to send a message to Liam after he’d heard Ana’s voice mail. In truth, he hadn’t even thought of contacting him. His wolf had taken over and all he’d wanted to do was find and destroy Taggart. Taggart’s dead.

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