Drakan—the former alpha of the Tongass pack, was dead.
His body lay slack as blood corrupted the snow beneath him. Here, in a stagnant part of the Tongass forest, Southeast of Alaska, while his soul was paying in hellfire for his sins.
Despite the arctic temperatures, my skin was hot and tight as I shifted back into a man.
The wolf in me was raging with fury.
If I didn’t repress it, it would cost me everything—if it hadn’t already.
I fought to glance everywhere but at the mangled body on the ground, skimming through the crowd of onlookers.
The entire Tongass pack was here to witness the event. In particular, there were two people I refused to acknowledge, knowing repulsion marred their faces.
It was my mother, Ivana, and my younger sister, Anabelle.
Even an average person without heightened senses could see Annabelle’s body tremble beneath her coat and hear my mother’s desperate gasps for air.
They had witnessed my ascend as the new alpha.
And the fall of the former—my father, Drakan.
My body tensed all over, my fists clenched by my sides. Then, without intending to, my eyes flicked to my father lying lifeless on the ground.
A deep, rumbling sound escaped my chest as the realization set in. I killed my father.
The bastard was dead.
I knew I wasn’t the only one pleased about this development, yet I couldn’t bring myself to celebrate my victory.
I had hurt the only people I loved by saving them.
My mother didn’t know what Drakan was capable of and what he was planning to do.
Ivana always glorified the monster, under the false assumption her mate was a man of honor who would protect them until his dying breath.
She didn’t know what Drakan had done to Annabelle or the countless other women around the area.
To the ones not even I was aware of. The mere thought made my stomach turn.
“How...why?” My mother fell to her knees beside Drakan, cupping the dead man’s face inside her palms. “How could you do this, Dante?”
Her voice was low—a disbelieving echo inside the wind stirring the forest.
“Your father,” the words cut past Ivana’s lips. She glanced at me as if she didn’t recognize me. “The man who raised you. Protected you…” she sucked in a shaky breath. “Your own flesh and blood!”
The entire pack sank a few steps back, except for Anabelle, who stood unmoving and staring at our father’s body. Not once did she glance at me, her brother, who had saved her from an inevitable hell.
I could feel through the pack bond that she hated me for it, which only infuriated me more.
How much more torture was she willing to take for the sake of our mother? I had thought at least my sister would stick to my side if the day would come—which it did—and she was already backing away.
Had Drakan not put her through enough?
One by one, the pack bowed down to me, their new alpha. It was a tradition that once the former alpha perished, the pack must bow to their new leader.
Anabelle gritted her teeth, scowling up at me. She hesitated for a moment, but in the end, I knew she feared backlash from the pack, and she forced herself onto her knees.
My mother didn’t bow. I didn’t expect her to, but by rules, the pack will punish her for her lack of action later on, and there wasn’t a thing I could do about it.
Leader or not, rules were rules.
I noted the light left my mother’s eyes as she glared up at me.
“You are nothing of me. Nothing,” she bit out. And as if the blow wasn’t hard enough, she added, “I regret the day I brought you into this world.”
I wanted to tell her everything, but the pack couldn’t know. It would stir a hunt of another sort, taking down innocent bystanders simply by association to the former alpha and what he did. That included Ivana and Anabelle.
The whole point of killing my father was to protect them, not put them in even more danger.
I couldn’t win whichever way, could I?
Time stretched on for a good minute before everyone straightened up. My closest and lifelong friend, Xavius, was the first to approach me as the crowd dispersed.
He rested a hand on my shoulder, avoiding glancing at me directly. The exchange could become awkward, as I was in all my full, naked glory.
“They will forgive you,” Xavius spoke, surveying the figures meandering off into the stretch of woods. “Eventually.”
I breathed out a ragged breath. “I hardly doubt it. My sister hates me, and my mother has disowned me.”
“You did what you had to.”
“You try to explain that to them.” I stepped away toward a large, hollowed-out tree where they kept spare clothes and dressed.
“I would clean myself off a bit if I were you,” Xavius sounded amused. “You look like something the dog took for a good shake in the woods.”
I watched as my friend turned, filing after the other shapes between the overgrowth.
I snorted, noting my broad chest was covered in mud, leaves, and moisture from the melting snow. There was no doubt in my mind that my long, raven hair must look like a crow's nest. I reached up to discover, sure enough, my usually glossy hair had become a clump of leaves and small sticks.
My body was covered in scratches, and in my thigh was a deep, bleeding bite that my father was responsible for in an attempt to fight back.
But I was bigger, younger, and much stronger.
The fight was rough and violent, and it undoubtedly showed.
The better man won, regardless of how my mother and sister saw it. I would never do unto others as Drakan did.
I knew that the fight wasn’t over. It was only the beginning, and I would have to prepare myself for war.
And I sure as hell would win.