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Feral (Wolf Ranch #3)
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Pack Rule #3: The alpha must mate.
The stronger the alpha, the greater the danger.
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My best friend and ranch hand Clint slapped me on the shoulder as we made our way up the walk to the front porch of our neighbor’s ranch. “Maybe she’s cute.”
I hadn’t been to the Shefield house since the old man passed away. The concrete heaved in spots, and weeds sprouted from the cracks. The place needed tending, and hopefully, the niece, Natalie, would tackle it. It was the second week in August, and snow was known to fall in early September. That seemed downright impossible with the ninety-degree weather we were having. At least the hard storms from last month seemed to have ended.
I gave Clint a look that as his boss and alpha should have made him cower, but he only grinned. “What?”
“Cute? Seriously? Are we back in middle school?” I took off my hat, wiped my brow with the back of my hand, then stuck it back on.
“You thought Brittany Simms was cute. Remember that hard-on you got in the cafeteria? Your eyes glowed so bright it was a wonder the humans didn’t notice.”
I swore under my breath at the embarrassing memory as I climbed the porch steps.
“I have to wonder if your dick ever got hard again.”
I gave him another look. Most of my pack members, especially the guys who lived and worked on the ranch, didn’t push their luck with me. Clint and I, though, had been friends since birth, raised in the pack together. Still, I was fucking sick of anyone thinking my dick’s prerogatives were their business. If I had to go to one more pack’s mating games and deal with the heavy expectations that I leave with one of their she-wolves permanently claimed as mine, I was going to shoot myself.
Especially after what happened last time.
“I don’t see a mating bite on any female you’ve dated, asshole,” I grumbled.
“I’m playing the field,” he replied, offering a small shrug of his broad shoulder.
“More like playing with yourself,” I muttered.
He snorted a laugh. “The difference is I’m not alpha. Much less chance of moon madness hitting me. Plus, no one gives a shit if it does, and they have to put me down when I go feral.”
“Being alpha’s one thing, but everyone keeping track of where my dick’s been and where it needs to go is annoying as fuck.”
He studied me, then nodded once. “All we know about Natalie Shefield is that she’s in a masters program for music somewhere in California. If she can take care of your problem, then what’s the hang up?”
“You know what the problem is. She’s human.”
My brothers might have been able to mate humans, but I couldn’t. I was the alpha of the Cooper Valley pack. My pups had to shift, had to be pure. I, personally, didn’t give a shit about this, but I knew others did. The grumbling had begun a few years ago when I crossed age thirty without mating and became high risk for moon madness. As time passed and I had yet to find a mate, the muttering got louder, the concerns grew. My pack respected me, and they didn’t want to lose me. I had to ensure the line continued. Find a mate—a wolf mate—and breed her.
“That makes her off limits,” I countered. “If you think she’s cute, then you can have a go.”
As he opened his mouth to say something, most likely stupid, a female cry cut through the quiet.
I tensed and looked to Clint. Clint looked at me. His blue eyes widened in surprise then concern. A female in trouble raised every one of a shifter male’s instincts to help. To protect. To destroy whoever was a threat.
My hand shot out to try the front door. Unlocked. That made it easy, but I wasn’t past kicking it down if needed.
Throwing it open, we stepped into the entry. It looked exactly as it had the last time I’d been in, as if my old friend was still around. Old Man Shefield had handed down his house, furnishings and all.
To the right was a family room with a stone fireplace. To the left, a dining room with an antique table and chairs. Directly in front of us was a central hallway that led back to the kitchen and also a staircase that led to the second floor. It turned to the right at a landing halfway up. I’d never been on the second floor, but based on the size of the house, I had to assume there were four or five bedrooms.
“Take this floor,” I told Clint. “I’ll head upstairs.” Another cry bounced off the walls. I went up the steps two at a time as my friend headed toward the kitchen.
At the top, I looked left and right. Six doors, all closed. I stilled to use my wolf hearing. I picked up ragged breathing from the right.